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On the road to another record

A lineup for a bus

Has your commute changed recently?

There’s been a lot of reflection these past couple of weeks on transit and TransLink. Last week, we celebrated both the 25th anniversary year of SkyTrain and Canada Line’s second birthday. This week, our scope in time is a little shorter but no less significant. You may have caught it on the news yesterday. If not, here is what is going on.

The number of people taking transit in Metro Vancouver is up four percent compared to last year. So far, there have been 114.4 million transit trips this year! Despite having a record ridership last year (a certain event last February really did make the numbers jump!), 2011, like each year for the past 10 years, looks like another record breaker. If you’re curious about the second quarter statistics, everything can be found in the official press release.

With demand for transit continually increasing, TransLink optimizes it’s service four times a year in an effort to put service where it’s needed most. TransLink did this in April and June and will do it again in September. As Brian Mills explained in a previous post, “…travel patterns chance significantly when school starts in September, at the end of university terms in April, at the summer break, and we make one change around the new year to further refine services.”  In another post, Brain explains what service optimization is all about, “We’re always managing our services so that we use our limited resources as efficiently and effectively as possible… However, we’re in a time where we don’t have new resources. So what we want to do is make sure that what we’ve got is used effectively.”

When I read and hear about numbers like these, I think to myself, what does this mean in reality? Having been the Editor for the Buzzer for the past five months or so, I’ve been taking the same route to and from work. Taking into consideration seasonal changes (more students on the Expo and Millennium Lines during the afternoons in the summer), I’ve noticed an increase in ridership on the Expo and Millennium Lines and the 99B-Line bus around 5 p.m. Generally, it has been a little harder to find a seat on the train and bus, and I’ve had to stand (which isn’t too bad).

Not having the luxury of traveling all the lines all the time, I’d love to find out if your commute has changed these past six months or so. Have you noticed increases in ridership on certain routes and/or during certain times? And has the increase in ridership meant an overall change in your experience on the bus, the SkyTrain system, West Coast Express or SeaBus?


15 Comments

  • By Nick, August 22, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

    I’ve used transit to commute since 2005, and last year when we moved to Maple Ridge I started using the WCE. However, last month we decided to STOP commuting with Transit and now drive 50km each way, every day.

    Why, you ask? Well..

    1. Cost. It’s cheaper for my wife and I to pay for gas and parking to and from downtown every month than it is to use WCE.

    2. Convenience. With only 5 trains each way, we’re limited. By driving, we get home a full hour and 15 minutes earlier each day. Also, we have more flexibility at the end of the day if we want to stick around or go somewhere other than home.

    3. Stress. Surprisingly, I am LESS stressed out by driving.. even with the traffic. I don’t have to deal with people who talk really loud, or who take up a lot of room, or take their shoes and socks off and put their feet up on the seats (seriously.. eww). And since we get home earlier, we have more time to enjoy ourselves before we have to go to sleep.

    Too bad skytrain and good bus service doesn’t extend out to maple ridge.

  • By Donald, August 22, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

    An hour 15 minutes? Really? From Port Coquitlam it’s about 20 minutes faster for me to drive compared to the West Coast Express to work but going home it usually works out to about the same if traffic is not too bad aside from the usual slow spots.

    I do agree that driving together can be less expensive than carpooling, not so much in Tri-Cities where it’s may just $20 cheaper but when we were out in Mission it was almost a couple hundred dollars less.

    Still you see groups of four friends chatting away on the train who could easily save money by carpooling together but instead choose to take the train instead. I think some people prefer taking it easy, I know myself I generally like driving but sometimes I can let the stress get the best of me, usually happens after about a week of driving to work non stop.

  • By zack, August 22, 2011 @ 10:03 pm

    That’s it!! Let’s build that darn Evergreen Line!! I am sick and tired hearing the constant bickering from our local mayors, who keep refusing to fund the line because of taxes. Now I now raising property taxes is both unpopular and controversial, but that money to build the line has to come from somewhere. Personally though, I would prefer though the 2% gas tax increase, and bridge tolls (thinking out loudly) as a source of revenue. While I live very close to the SkyTrain most bus routes in Burnaby, I can still feel the pain most Tri-Cities residents are going through by making the long commute to Vancouver.

  • By Kelly, August 22, 2011 @ 10:33 pm

    Would still rather have thw WCE run all day. Including weekends. Not only it’s for the commuters, but for our visitors wanting to check out the West Coast Express. I love to go over to Mission during the day & come back to Vancouver in the evening.

  • By MTN, August 23, 2011 @ 9:15 am

    So let’s see… 25 years of largely unmonitored fares on Skytrain, and increased ridership and Translink currently wants an extra $70MM to improve services. How about first putting the toll booths in like any “normal’ and reasonable city and business does, so people aren’t riding for FREE, and before hitting up taxpayers again & requiring all students to have a UPASS!? I’ve used and paid for using the Canada Line & Skytrain and its both openly talked about & obvious that a large percentage are NOT paying their fares.

  • By Justin, August 23, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

    From Maple Ridge to Water Front a 28 day pass is 217 per person, or 434 a month.

    I have owned cars before, and I cannot figure out how on earth driving is cheaper then the train. I certainly never had a car that cost less then that when you added in insurance, gas, etc.

  • By Scott, August 23, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

    As a regular rider of the 320 and 502, I have noticed this year especially that ridership has soared on these routes. It is not uncommon to see passups even on weekends (Saturday passups on the 320 are a guarantee due to the horrible timing of the bus as they come ten min apart then 20 min apart then ten then twenty etc.). During the weekdays, there are passups often especially after fraser/156 on the 502 and on the 320 down 104th. To not have any service increase on these routes come sept is crazy.

  • By Joe, August 23, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

    @Kelly: CP Rail can’t give them reliable movement windows for them to run the trains in the daytime due to Freight Traffic. This is why the TrainBus is used for any mid-day service. Sure, CP Rail can give them occasional windows (events, New Years, etc) but they can’t give them reliable ones.

  • By Donald, August 24, 2011 @ 10:05 am

    @Justin, if someone needs to own a car regardless of whether or not they take transit to work, then using a car to go to work is just the subsequent cost of upgrading pleasure insurance to commuting insurance, gas, parking, and additional maintenance. Maintenance is about 5 cents a km for most compact cars.

  • By Nick, August 25, 2011 @ 9:02 am

    @Justin, there are 30/31 days in a month, but only 28 days in a WCE pass. Over the course of the year those extra few days add up to 1 extra pass, so there are 13 passes required in a year per person. 217x13x2/12= about 470 per month.

    I spend just a hair over $200 in gas, plus $180 a month in parking downtown. increase in insurance is like $25. So that’s a $65 savings every month.

    @Donald we get home an hour and 15 earlier each day because of our schedules. we get off at 5:30, so we had to wait almost an hour for the next train to leave. a lot of the time savings is simply not having to wait to leave the city. We get home 10 minutes after the train leaves downtown.

  • By Kelly, August 26, 2011 @ 11:27 pm

    @Joe: It ain’t fair that these damm freight cars on those CP lines have 1st choice to run on the tracks. It’s not fair for the visitors as well. Very disapointing. Train buses don’t count. If Via Rail were to get rid of their passinger service altogether, there wouldnt be any tranportation of all kind. Yeah Via Rail is diffrence from CPR & CNR, but we need more passenger cars to reduce car exaustions & also airline fears of heights. Canada needs to look at passinger rail again & after 9/11, many people don’t wana fly anymore.

  • By Eugene Wong, August 28, 2011 @ 6:46 am

    @Kelly

    Remember, the tracks were originally built by tax payer money, and railways were sold to the private companies at about $1/km. At least that is what I heard. I don’t mind privatization. I just insist that they provide the same service at the same pricing or better, or provide the same prices at “reasonable” service reductions. I put that in quotes, because I know that that is totally debatable, but the idea is that some sacrifices are worth while. So, I have to wonder how CN & CP did any better as private companies. They are making profits, I assume, yet they sell off right of ways, and don’t add any new routes.

    The government should take them back, and run them for the people.

    @Nick

    I’m disappointed to see that service hasn’t helped you, but I appreciate you breaking it down. You could tack on another $50 to your car expenses, and it would still save you money. I find that really surprising.

    Maybe a reasonable solution is to send more buses in between the trains, to increase frequency. We should be aiming for a frequency of 5 – 10 minutes.

    @MTN

    I see another call for fare gates. Are you able to prove that any single person has not paid? I know that some people cheat. You can see them begging to get on free, and then not pay at the stations. There are also people pulled over by the cops. Really, though, how many people are not paying? If you stand at the station entrance, then can you spot who has a month pass? How do you know? How do you know that a passenger isn’t carrying a month pass today, and paying by faresavers tomorrow? He might share with his wife. What skin colour does a fare evader have? What kind of pants does he wear? What kind of skirt does she wear? Maybe I’m being too presumptuous. What kind of skirt does he wear? ;^P

    Seriously, I hate it when people make big assumptions without any studies or evidence to support their claims. Perhaps you are just an employee of a company, that sells gates and other security things.

    I happen to enjoy just going up to the platform and walking on freely. If I forget to pay, then I can get off at the upcoming station, or pay at the destination station. I shouldn’t have forgotten, but at least I can still pay.

    If anybody has any tips of preventing the installation of fare gates, then please let me know.

  • By Bobo, August 29, 2011 @ 10:30 am

    I second Robert’s comments about the 99. I used to commute by the 99 EB in the morning and WB in the afternoon. I’ve since moved, so I only take it occasionally WB in the afternoon to run errands. It does seem to be busier.

    But it’s weekends that are the real source of frustration for me. No matter what time of day I take the 99 on the weekends, it always seems to be horribly crowded. I don’t mind standing, but it is usually sardine can levels of crowding. It has always been bad, but it just seems to get worse and worse. And yes, this has meant an overall change in my experience. Sometimes there are pass ups where I board (Clark). If I do get on, the trip takes way longer than it should because of the complications of loading and unloading a packed bus. When time allows, I usually take the much slower 9 to avoid the nonsense, but the 9 can get pretty crowded too.

  • By Philip, August 29, 2011 @ 11:18 am

    Fare gates are very important. I’ve even seen people shouting down the escalator telling people there’s no ticket checker at the top so they don’t need to pay. Translink should really hire some ticket checkers in normal clothing so people can’t spot them.

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, August 29, 2011 @ 7:13 pm

    @Philip

    I clicked on the like button because I liked what you said, but I think that fare gates won’t solve that problem. I think that they’ll just find another way. There needs to be a way for an obese person to get through, so cheaters will try to squeeze through or hold a gate open.

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