Travel patterns within Metro Vancouver have taken a relatively significant step away from private automobile use, based on latest findings from a recent regional Trip Diary survey, conducted by TransLink.
The public transit authority released the results of the extensive survey today, which were based on a representative selection of 57,000 people from 28,000 households across the region in the fall of 2017.
The survey is conducted approximately once every five years.
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The mode share of automobile drivers dropped from 59% in 2011, when the last Trip Diary survey was conducted, to 55% in 2017, representing the largest drop in automobile driver mode share since the survey began in the middle of the 1980s.
For automobile passengers, the mode share increased just slightly from 16% in 2011 to 16.6% in 2017.
Automobile mode share dropped across nearly all municipal jurisdictions in the region.
Surprisingly, the public transit mode share decreased slightly from 12.4% to 11.7% over the same period, despite recent record ridership growth.
During today’s TransLink board of governors meeting, Geoff Cross, the vice-president of planning and policy for the public transit authority, explained that the survey results do not capture the full growth in ridership over the last few years. TransLink ridership increased by 18.4% over the past three years.
The walking mode share saw the greatest increase during the period, rising from 10% to 14%.
As for the regional mode share for cycling, there was a decrease from 1.8% to 1.6%.
Overall, the three sustainable transportation modes combined — public transit, walking, and cycling — accounted for 27.3% of how the region gets around in 2017, up from 24.2% in 2011.
For all modes, the number of trips saw growth largely due to population and employment growth, and the economy’s strong performance; between 2011 and 2017, the region added over 250,000 residents and 150,000 jobs, and retail sales grew by 35%.
The number of trips over the period increased by 21%, from 6.5 million trips to 7.9% trips per day — a growth rate higher than the population and job increases of 11% and 12%, respectively.
The average number of trips made per person per weekday increased by 10% from 2.94 to 3.24.
The total amount of travel, measured as vehicle kilometres traveled (VKT), also increased, mostly because of the population growth, with 44.3 million VKT per day in 2017 — up by 13% from 39.4 million VKT per day in 2011. But on a per person basis, the average VKT remained the same at 17.8 kms per day in 2011 and 18.1 kms per day in 2017.
Moreover, the length of automobile driver trips stayed the same, but interestingly public transit trips are now markedly longer — from an average of 11.5 kms in 2011 to 13.3 kms in 2017.
Regional residents are also making more trips for every trip purpose, with the greatest increase seen with shopping and personal trips, which grew by 48%. Growth from this particular trip purpose resulted in the increase of the share of these trips from 15% in 2011 to 18% in 2017.
While trip purposes for work and post-secondary schools are a major contributor for trips generated, the share from this trip purpose actually decreased from 24% to 20%.
The number of peak hour trips also saw significant increases to the extent that the peak-hour travel surges are spilling over into other periods of the day.
The number of trips during the morning peak hour from 6 am to 9 am increased by 17%, while the afternoon peak hour from 3 pm to 6 pm increased by 18%. Travel during the rest of the day increased by 33% during mid-day hours from 9 am to 3 pm, and 22% in the evening after 6 pm.
“What you’re getting is a snapshot of what fall 2017 travel patterns looked like. It helps us look at how our policies, from both a transportation and land use perspective, are working across the region,” said Cross.
“Those things take a long time to change, especially land use, so these trends tend to be very slow.”
This data will be used by TransLink for the 30-year regional transportation expansion strategy master plan guided by Transport 2050, as well as for the planning and modelling work of the public transit authority’s consultants, municipal governments, and provincial government.
“[The data] shows how much investment is required to move the dial. As a region, we really need to move that dial,” said board member Marcella Szel.
Further analysis of the data will involve provide explanation on the changes and emerging patterns, such as the effect of the housing affordability and supply crisis on where people live and how they get around.
Other factors include the opening of the Millennium Line Evergreen Extension, bus service increases, and the introduction of the Compass Card, as well as changes to the regional road system, such as the completion of the widening of Highway 1 and the new Port Mann Bridge.
In September 2017, just as the Trip Diary survey began, the BC NDP provincial government also fulfilled an election promise to remove tolls from the Port Mann Bridge and Golden Ears Bridge.
Here is a breakdown of the modal shares in specific geographic areas of interest: