TransLink’s ridership down and has a surplus

All the hype and hoopla about transit funding, reality has struck TransLink in the face like a banana cream pie; ridership has decline, yet there is a surplus or profit.

Oh there are lots of excuses like fewer people working weekdays or there has been a decrease in employment in metro Vancouver and even with 110,000 deep discounted U-Passes issued, ridership has declined.

Could the real reason for a decline in ridership is that the transit system is not user friendly? Anyone who has actually read a book on the subject of public transit soon learns that customer friendliness is the prime reason for people taking transit. If the system becomes user unfriendly (like forced transfers from bus to light metro or passengers duking it out on buses) the transit customer will opt for the car.

Sadly, TransLink treats the transit customer like cattle and mostly those who do not have a transit choice are forced to take transit.

The profit surplus, after years of TransLink pleading poverty, again shows that the transit authority is not honest with the public.

TransLink is run by accountants and career bureaucrats, overseen by politicians who want politically prestigious projects (read expensive) to win elections. The more money spent on light metro will only exacerbate the situation as it nothing more than doing the same thing over again hoping for different results.

Until there is regime change at TransLink transit will become more expensive with fewer people opting to take transit.

TransLink records 2013 budget surplus despite 4.9 million fewer passengers

The authority cited the 10-per-cent fare increase last year, fewer working weekdays in 2013, a decrease in B.C. employment and the general state of the economy as contributing factors in the two-per-cent ridership drop

TransLink reported its first surplus in five years Wednesday but the positive financial result came with news that total ridership last year fell by 4.9 million passengers. The transit authority said 233.9 million revenue passengers used TransLink services last year, down from 238.8 million in 2012 and the first year-over-year decline since a transit strike caused ridership to fall in 2001.

Photograph by: Arlen Redekop Arlen Redekop, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER — TransLink reported its first surplus in five years Wednesday but the positive financial result came with news that total ridership last year fell by 4.9 million passengers.

The transit authority said 233.9 million revenue passengers used TransLink services last year, down from 238.8 million in 2012 and the first year-over-year decline since a transit strike caused ridership to fall in 2001.

TransLink said a 10-per-cent fare increase last year, fewer working weekdays in 2013 and the general state of the B.C. economy all contributed to the two-per-cent drop in ridership.

But chief financial officer Cathy McLay said itai??i??s too early to tell if the ridership decline is anything more than a one-year aberration.

ai???You have to put it in context because weai??i??re still above 2011 numbers (when ridership was 233.3 million),ai??? she said. ai???When you look at the significant ridership growth since the mid-2000s, I think those numbers still show solid growth.ai???

McLay said past fare increases have caused slight declines in ridership but those numbers have always bounced back. She stressed TransLink understands peopleai??i??s frustration with a system struggling to find the funding needed to meet the surging demand for transit services.

ai???When you keep getting that compounding ridership growth and no additional money to put services out, people are frustrated and I think TransLink would like nothing better than to be in a position to have the funding meet the demands of the people,ai??? McLay said

The province wants a referendum to be held on the issue of new TransLink funding and the mayorsai??i?? council of Metro Vancouver mayors expects to present a new funding plan next month, along with a list of transit priorities.

NDP transportation critic George Heyman attributed the reduced ridership to higher fares and declining service.

ai???As we have seen with BC Ferries, ridership is discouraged when you max out fares and donai??i??t meet the growing service demands,ai??? he said.

TransLink said revenues increased by $22.1 million last year to $1.443 billion while expenses fell by $24 million to $1.406 billion ai??i?? creating a $36.8-million surplus, its first surplus since a 2008 surplus of about $170 million.

Heyman feels the TransLink surplus came at the expense of better service.

ai???There has been a massive increase in HandyDart trip denials,ai??? he said in reference to the transit service for disabled persons. ai???Thatai??i??s because the demand has gone up with our aging population but the service has not improved.ai???

HandyDart users complained about declining service at TransLinkai??i??s annual meeting Wednesday, despite TransLinkai??i??s recent move to invest $1 million in a pilot project that will use cabs to transport people when HandyDart isnai??i??t available.

Heyman also noted a plan to increase bus service hours substantially last year had to be put on hold because of funding issues.

ai???We have a background of funding limbo and funding instability, with TransLink being told to share and cut,ai??? he said.

TransLink spent $80.6 million last year on capital costs related to the delayed Compass card project ai??i?? including $51.5 million for station infrastructure upgrades and $29.1 million for equipment and systems.

Administration costs increased by 15.5 per cent, or $3.8 million, to $28.2 million due to increased technology and marketing costs for the Compass projects, which involves the introduction of a reloadable electronic fare card.

TransLink vice-president of enterprise initiatives Mike Madill said the total Compass project budget remains at $194.2 million.

About 85,000 Compass cards have been distributed to TransLink customers so far and the transit authority hopes to introduce them to West Coast Express customers later this year, possibly by late summer.

ai???Weai??i??re taking it slow and following the best practices of other agencies who have put in similar systems,ai??? Madill said. ai???We want to make sure we get it right for our customers.ai???

bconstantineau@vancouversun.com

Comments

4 Responses to “TransLink’s ridership down and has a surplus”
  1. jim says:

    I tried to make using transit a regular thing for me, but it doesn’t work. It takes far longer, and costs a lot more then driving. When the government spends all it’s money on building highways and bridges, rather then transit, of course transit isn’t going to work as well.

  2. zweisystem says:

    The problem I suspect is that transit is being planned on a 1950′s and 60′s template, where streetcars and trams were thought to be on their way out. The government and many academics bought into the the light-metro way of doing things, where you have a fast spinal route fed by buses, which means the transit customer had to transfer 1 or more times per trip. The problem with that is transit customers hate to transfer and when transit customers have to transfer 2 or more times per journey, they really want to take the car instead.

    Our transit system is being planned by people who never got past the Edsel and have remained blind deaf and dumb with modern LRT.

  3. Malcontent says:

    I gave up on Transit of many years of taking the 311 from Scottsdale to where i work in Vancouver, however once they diverted or lets call it what it is being forced into Richmond to take Canada line. I used to get on one bus to work and that was it, now a bus, Canada line and another bus. No thank you. Too inconvenient now. Had no transfers and now two. I bet if they brought back the direct bus from Scottsdale to Downtown it would be full..,, But Translink will not do that as I guess they have to pad Canada line numbers. Now I drive to work.

    Zwei replies: You clearly illustrate the big problem that TransLink refuses to address – forced transfers. Study after study has shown that one can loose up 70% to 80% of potential ridership per transfer. In plain language, if a transit trip has one transfer, 70 to 80 people out of every 100 people will not take transit. For two transfers to complete a transit trip could loose all but 7 to 10 potential customers!

    The more TransLink builds light metro and forces customers to transfer, the fewer people that will take transit!

  4. eric chris says:

    Expect the ridership to crash further for 2014. Transit by TransLink is mostly designed to bring residents doing menial jobs from Surrey into Vancouver for work, BC Lions games and Canucks games. Canucks are going to be junk for a long time and demand from Surrey to go to games is going to fall. TransLink is out of tricks and didn’t have any more students to bribe with almost free transit passes in 2013, hence the drop in ridership which I predicted in past posts.

    Transit is going nowhere fast here. Driving is up, and for the idiots at TransLink to blame the economy for the drop in ridership is actually backwards: transit use increases when the economy tanks as more people can’t afford to drive. Nice try retards at TransLink.