Despite sizable drop-offs on several Tri-Cities bus routes in 2022, more residents seem to be taking transit this year.
In the northeast region – which includes the Tri-Cities – an extra 6,000 riders rode the bus last March – a 27 percent increase from March 2022, according to TransLink data.
Overall, ridership in the Tri-Cities is at 84 percent of pre-pandemic levels. That figure represents a smaller bounce-back than Maple Ridge and Richmond, where current ridership rates have eclipsed pre-pandemic levels. However, the most recent numbers suggest a stronger rebound in the Tri-Cities than in Vancouver, Burnaby or New Westminster, where ridership rates are still less than 80 percent of 2019 levels.
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Despite rising ridership rates, overcrowding has not been a problem on Tri-Cities buses, according to TransLink data. When it comes to the afternoon rush hour, about three percent of Tri-Cities residents experience overcrowding, compared to 35 percent in Vancouver/UBC and 26 percent in the southeast section of Metro Vancouver.
However, TransLink is projecting that riders across the network will have less elbow room this fall.
“We anticipate that overcrowding will only increase,” stated TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn in a release. “We are limited in our ability to reduce overcrowding with what we have. We need to expand our infrastructure and add new services now to address current demands and keep up with future growth.”
Trip to Ottawa
Following recent discussions with the federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Dominic LeBlanc, as several other MPs and party leaders,, TransLink Mayors’ Council Chair Brad West underscored the urgency for funding TransLink’s 10-year plan. The plan requires an estimated investment of $21 billion over the next decade.
“Everyone agreed expanding transit is critical to improving quality of life, addressing affordability and meeting emission reduction targets,” West stated in a June 1 release.
The Port Coquitlam mayor added he was hopeful the federal government will work with provincial and municipal governments, “to help make this plan a reality.”
A bit about the plan
Approved last summer, the Transport 2050: 10-year Priorities plan includes more than doubling bus service while adding a North Shore transit connection, a Burnaby Mountain gondola, and 450 kilometres of separated cycling paths.
If implemented, the plan would connect Coquitlam’s city centre with Maple Ridge via dedicated bus lanes and transit signal priority down Lougheed. Coquitlam’s city centre would also have a direct bus connection to Surrey along Highway 1 and Highway 7.
TransLink would also “undertake an exploratory business case,” for bringing the Millennium Line to Port Coquitlam.
Earlier this year, a survey of 694 Tri-Cities residents 55 and older – most from Port Coquitlam – found that about 85 percent of respondents said they avoid taking transit. Approximately 86 percent of respondents said they usually drive to get around.
Transit in Tri-Cities
A survey of Coquitlam residents found that 22 percent of all trips in the city were made by cycling, walking, micromobility or transit.
While many residents were eager to walk and bike more, road safety prevented many from using the sidewalk or bike path, according to the survey
“We really do need to rethink mobility in the city,” Colin Fowler, co-chair of HUB Cycling Tri-Cities told the Dispatch earlier this year. “It’s very obvious for anyone that gets around in anything other than a car, or even for people who do get around in a car, that what’s happening right now just isn’t working.”
Coquitlam council recently gave final approval to a pilot project that will let e-scooters to zip up and down city streets at least until April 2024.
Across TransLink, ridership rates hopped up 48 percent in 2022 compared to 2021.
While the Tri-Cities were more or less in line with regional trends for 2022, TransLink documented sizable decreases on several local transit routes.
Ridership on the 170 from Port Coquitlam Station to Port Coquitlam South was down 53 percent from 2019 levels. The dip – which saw 85,000 fewer riders on the 170 – coincided with TransLink reducing service hours by about seven percent.
There was space to stretch out on the 189 Coquitlam Central to Lafarge Park bus in 2022, as ridership dropped 47 percent. The number of riders on the 189 dropped from 135,000 to 71,000 despite a five percent increase in service hours.
Ridership was down about 42 percent on the 183 from Moody Centre to Coquitlam Central despite a slight uptick in service hours.
There were about 700,000 fewer riders on the 160 Port Coquitlam to Kootenay Loop in 2022, with ridership down 40 percent.
Ridership on the 180 from Moody Centre to Lougheed Station and the 181 from Moody Centre to Ioco each dropped approximately 38 percent in 2022, despite the two routes adding a total of 400 annual service hours.
Popular routes including the 152 Coquitlam Central to Lougheed Station, the 157 Burquitlam to Lougheed Station and the 159 Coquitlam Central to Braid Station each declined by about one-third from 2019 levels. TransLink added a total of 800 service hours to the 152 and the 159 in 2022.
The drop in SkyTrain boardings was more modest, with declines ranging from 18 to 25 percent at most Tri-Cities stations.
The exceptions were at the end of the line, with boardings at Lafarge Lake/Douglas and Lincoln dropping by 36 and 30 percent, respectively.
In total, the two stations welcomed approximately 750,000 fewer riders in 2022 than in 2019.