Transit ridership leaps over 300 million trips in 2008
That is a very nice headline to be able to copy. It looks good doesn’t it?
It certainly sounds better than “transit ridership increases by less than 3%” – which is also true
And you will search in vain for the statistic that really matters. What did that do for transit mode share? Tom Prendergast says it was due to higher gas prices, because that is what some people said when the were asked in a survey. But the probability that I would go for is just more transit service.There has been such severe overcrowding and pass ups in recent years than any additional service would be quickly filled at peak periods. This might also raise the confidence of people trying to use transit that they will be able to get on a bus or into a SkyTrain in a reasonable time frame.
The only way to tell if people had actually switched from driving to buses in any significant way would be if the number of car trips declined. And despite Translink being an all mode transportation provider, not just a transit system, they seem very quiet about the number road trips. A lot of Translink’s revenue gets spent on roads. Some of the additional gas tax they were awarded when they were formed was swallowed up by the need to maintain (and the desire to improve) downloaded provincial highways, bridges and the Albion Ferry. And of course the biggest single project on the books has been the replacement of that ferry by a massively increased car capacity Golden Ears Bridge. (Yes that is a P3 to paid for by tolls – but the upfront drain on resources must be significant.)
Perhaps it is just to early to tally the traffic counts?
I am not going to get into a discussion about ridership statistics – that is an old saw done to death here. They are supposed to be getting better, though I hear the automatic passenger counters now installed on a few buses are not as reliable as had been hoped. The phenomenon of rising transit ridership has been seen across North America – and has been one of the few bright spots in the recession so far. Of course, just like Translink, most transit systems have also seen their ability to provide enough service to carry all these new rides severely hampered. And rising fares and cutting service has been a very common story for months on my daily Google alert for “transit news”.
But it would be nice for a change to have some context for statistics and not just spin. How does a 3% increase stack up against Toronto or Montreal for example? Or even Victoria, come to that. Has there been a reduction in the number of axles going across the automatic counters along the “cordons” (basically the major bridges, tunnel, Boundary Road and North Road)? Or even was there a fall in the number of private vehicles insured in the region in 2008?