British Columbia

'So much appetite': TransLink ridership soars to record 437 million boardings

TransLink has a problem most transit operators would envy: too many people are using the system. 

Large increases in ridership are leading to overcrowding

Vancouver commuters board the 99 B-line bus during rush hour. Approximately 30 per cent of B-Lines routes experienced overcrowding in 2019, the highest number in the system. (Peter Scobie/CBC)

TransLink has a problem most transit operators would envy: too many people are using the system. 

"There is so much appetite, that we are not keeping up," said Sarah Ross, TransLink's director of system planning, as she presented TransLink's annual ridership report, which showed a record 437.4 million boardings in 2018, up 7.1 per cent from 2017.

"Ridership is outpacing [our] expansion."

TransLink said there were 52 routes with consistent overcrowding in 2018, up by 37 per cent. The three routes with the most overcrowding went to and from UBC (the 99, 49 and 25), with the next most congested buses being the 502 (which travels from Surrey Central to Langley City) and the 319 (which travels between New Westminster, Delta and Surrey).

In addition, 80 per cent of bus routes are slower today than in 2014. 

"That's a double edged sword," said Mayors' Council chair Jonathan Coté.   

"You know, this is exactly what we're hoping to do — encourage more people to take public transit. But with the service we're having, we are seeing more crowding on our trains and buses."

More buses on the way 

TransLink says the plan to combat overcrowding centres around getting more buses on the road, which are already funded. 

"But it does take time to see that service start to hit the system," said Coté. 

However, TransLink said more trips have been added to 10 routes this week, and another 22 routes will get additional service come June 2019. In addition, 56 new cars for the Expo and Millennium Line are soon arriving, which will expand capacity. 

"The nature of any excellent urban transport system is it's going to be crowded," said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. 

"We've got to have a continuous investment program to expand our system."

Ridership was up everywhere on all services TransLink provided over the last year: eight per cent on buses, seven per cent on the West Coast Express and six per cent on the SeaBus and SkyTrain.

But on a regional level, there were big differences in growth — while annual bus boardings decreasing in White Rock and Pitt Meadows but up 16 per cent in Delta and 17 per cent in Surrey. 


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