TransLink ridership has now recovered to 84% of pre-pandemic levels

May 11 2023, 10:00 pm

Ridership on Metro Vancouver’s public transit services continues to inch upward towards pre-pandemic levels.

In a recent update, TransLink states ridership reached 84% of 2019 levels in March 2023, marking the highest rate yet in the three-year-long recovery from the trough.

In April 2020, upon the sudden onset of the pandemic, ridership collapsed to just 17% of normal volumes.

According to TransLink, it continues to lead all major public transit networks in Canada and the United States in ridership recovery.

Here is how TransLink ridership has fluctuated, based on its reported ridership change updates:

  • April 2020: 17% of pre-pandemic
  • September 2020: 41% of pre-pandemic
  • November 2020: 44% of pre-pandemic
  • September 2021: 55% of pre-pandemic
  • January 2022: 60% of pre-pandemic
  • February 2022: 64.5% of pre-pandemic
  • May 2022: 70% of pre-pandemic
  • June 2022: 72% of pre-pandemic
  • September 2022: 77% of pre-pandemic
  • November 2022: “80%+” of pre-pandemic
  • December 2022: 82% of pre-pandemic
  • March 2023: 84% of pre-pandemic

Bus services have seen the strongest ridership recovery to date, while the West Coast Express commuter rail recovery lags behind all other modes of service due to the ongoing widespread practice of semi-remote office work. Moreover, ridership recovery in office space clusters of downtown Vancouver and Central Broadway continues to lag, but in real numbers, both sub-areas of the region’s Metro Core continue to see very significant ridership.

The strongest areas for ridership recovery are in Surrey, Langley, Maple Ridge, and Pitt Meadows, where ridership has reached or exceeded 2019 volumes.

TransLink states the rate of ridership recovery is starting to outstrip the public transit work’s existing service levels, which were reduced by 4% region-wide in 2020. Overcrowding in 2022 is almost back to pre-pandemic levels.

translink ridership recovery 2022 23

TransLink ridership recovery through the end of 2022, compared with Canada and US averages. (TransLink)

In March 2023, the provincial government provided TransLink with an added operating subsidy financial infusion of $479 million, funded by the province’s 2022/2023 fiscal year budget surplus. This subsidy covers forecasted revenue shortfalls between 2023 and 2025, and allows TransLink to retain existing service levels — axing the previous threat of potential major service cuts starting later this year.

Although ridership recovery reached 84% in March 2023, it does not translate to an 84% recovery in fare revenue. TransLink previously noted that a higher proportion of passengers have now shifted to cheaper fare products such as single-trip fares for the fewer trips they take, instead of buying monthly passes.

Next week, representatives of TransLink’s Mayors’ Council will travel to Ottawa to lobby the federal government to expedite its promised permanent annual public transit fund to public transit services across Canada. This is intended to provide a consistent, stable source of funding, allowing a reduced dependence on fluctuating, demand-driven revenues such as from fares and from further pressures to increase property taxes.

Editor’s note: This article has been revised to note ridership recovery reached 84% in March 2023, not 87% as previously indicated. TransLink states it made an error in its calculations by not properly accounting for the actual number of weekdays in 2023 compared to 2022.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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