It is unclear exactly when public transit ridership in Metro Vancouver will fully rebound to pre-COVID-19 levels, and what kind of long-term impact the health crisis could have on transportation demand.
But recently released statistics by TransLink show 2019 was a record-breaking year for ridership — the fourth consecutive year of reaching a new ceiling in ridership, in fact.
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Accounting for the relatively small dip towards the end of the year as a result of uncertainty from labour action, there were 453 million total boardings in 2019, representing a 3.6% increase over 2018. This is also up from 363 million boardings in 2015.
The rapid growth in ridership over recent years before the pandemic can be attributed to new and improved services, but also population growth, densification around transit hubs, the strong economy, worsening traffic congestion, the region’s eastward population shift, and elevated gas prices.
Here is a breakdown on the year-over-year growth in boardings in 2019 for all public transit modes:
- Bus boardings: +3.8%
- SeaBus boardings: +1.2%
- SkyTrain (Expo, Millennium, Canada) boardings: +3.2%
- West Coast Express boardings: +4.9%
- HandyDART: +5.7%
TransLink operates over 200 bus routes across the region. Here are the 10 busiest bus routes in 2019, based on annual boardings:
- 99 B-Line: 17.791 million annual boardings; 57,240 average weekday boardings
- 49 Metrotown/UBC: 10.06 million annual boardings; 31,350 average weekday boardings
- 20 Victoria/Downtown: 8.75 million annual boardings; 26,580 average weekday boardings
- 25 UBC/Brentwood Town Centre: 8.46 million annual boardings; 27,120 average weekday boardings
- 41 UBC/Joyce-Collingwood: 8.13 million annual boardings; 22,210 average weekday boardings
- 16 29th Avenue/Arbutus: 7.98 million annual boardings; 24,190 average weekday boardings
- 319 Scott Road Station/Newton Exchange/Scottsdale: 7.47 million annual boardings; 23,000 average weekday boardings
- 9 Alma/Boundary: 7.466 million annual boardings; 23,240 average weekday boardings
- 95 B-Line (R5 Hastings): 7.464 million annual boardings; 24,130 average weekday boardings
- 3 Main/Downtown: 6.99 million annual boardings; 20,970 average weekday boardings
Here are the 10 least busiest bus routes in 2019, including seasonal and weekend-only services, based on annual boardings:
- 282 Mt. Gardner/Snug Cove: 2,000 annual boardings; weekend service only
- 179 Coquitlam Central Station/Buntzen Lake: 4,000 annual boardings; weekend service only
- 42 Alma/Spanish Banks: 6,000 annual boardings; weekend service only
- 608 Ladner Ring: 11,000 annual boardings; 40 average weekday boardings
- 606 Ladner Ring: 11,000 annual boardings; 40 average weekday boardings
- 281 Eagle Cliff/Snug Cove: 13,000 annual boardings; 40 average weekday boardings
- 242 Lynn Valley/Vancouver: 14,000 annual boardings; weekend service only
- N15 Downtown/Cambie NightBus: 18,000 annual boardings; weekend service only
- 748 Thornhill/Haney Place: 18,000 annual boardings; 60 average weekday boardings
- 614 English Bluff/South Delta Exchange: 18,000 annual boardings; 50 average weekday boardings
The five most overcrowded routes based on annual revenue hours with overcrowding are the 99 B-Line, No. 25 UBC/Brentwood Town Centre, No. 41 UBC/Joyce-Collingwood Station, No. 49 UBC/Metrotown, and 95 B-Line SFU/Burrard.
Bus routes that saw the highest year-over-year real increase in annual boardings are the No. 43 UBC/Joyce-Collingwood Express (now R4 41st Avenue; +1.3 million boardings), N0. 319 Scott Station/Newton Exchange/Scottsdale (+1.052 million boardings), No. 503 Aldergrove/Surrey Central Station (+887,000 boardings), No. 106 New Westminster Station/Edmonds Station (+794,000 boardings), and No. 49 UBC/Metrotown (+730,000 boardings).
These are the 10 busiest SkyTrain stations in 2019, ranked by annual boardings:
- Waterfront (Canada, Expo): 13.271 million (+5.2% year-over-year)
- Metrotown (Expo): 8.905 million (+8.4% year-over-year)
- Commercial-Broadway (Expo, Millennium): 8.103 million (-0.5% year-over-year)
- Burrard (Expo): 7.605 million (+3.7% year-over-year)
- Granville (Expo): 6.628 million (-2.8% year-over-year)
- Vancouver City Centre (Canada): 6.258 million (0.1% year-over-year)
- Stadium-Chinatown (Expo): 5.622 million (-1.2% year-over-year)
- New Westminster (Expo): 5.227 million (+3.5% year-over-year)
- Joyce-Collingwood (Expo): 5.133 million (+4.7% year-over-year)
- Main Street-Science World (Expo): 4.956 million (+0.8% year-over-year)
And the 10 least busiest SkyTrain stations in 2019, based on total boardings throughout the year:
- Sea Island Centre (Canada): 327,000 (+10.3% year-over-year)
- Lake City Way (Millennium): 384,000 (+1.7% year-over-year)
- Sperling-Burnaby Lake (Millennium): 666,000 (-1.8% year-over-year)
- Inlet Centre (Millennium): 694,000 (+5.8% year-over-year)
- Moody Centre (Millennium): 805,000 (+10.0% year-over-year)
- Lafarge Lake-Douglas (Millennium): 935,000 (+4.3% year-over-year)
- Rupert (Millennium): 975,000 (-3.3% year-over-year)
- Sapperton (Expo): 992,000 (+2.9% year-over-year)
- Holdom (Millennium): 1.047 million (+1.3% year-over-year)
- VCC-Clark (Millennium): 1.059 million (+2.9% year-over-year)
Of special mention, year-over-year SkyTrain ridership grew by 6.2% at King George Station, 7.4% at Surrey Central Station, 8.3% at Marine Drive Station, 7.1% at Scott Road Station, 6.7% at King Edward Station, and 11% at Templeton Station.
TransLink anticipates it could take several years for ridership to return to pre-pandemic levels. As of the end of July, total systemwide ridership had reached 40% of normal levels — up from the pandemic low of below 20% in early April.