Saturday, August 22, 2009

Public Transit - the right way


Canada Line is performing above expectations, not only was it completed and functioning three months ahead of schedule and on budget, it is also more popular than expected, generating more revenues than expected, and costing taxpayers less than budgeted.

Careful and detailed planning, flawless implementation, and responsive ridership testing: that's the way to build public transit.


The Canada Line could reach its ridership goals sometime next year rather than in 2013 as forecast, TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said Friday.

That would likely save TransLink — and taxpayers — millions in subsidies to the Canada Line’s private operator.

Hardie made the optimistic assessment after the line averaged 80,000 trips per day in its first five days of operations.

It had been forecast to reach 100,000 trips a day in 2013, and TransLink is required to subsidize the operator until that point is reached.

“The 100,000 ridership represents the point when the line generates enough revenue, with bus service savings to cover payment to the concessionaire,” Hardie said.

He said the steady passenger loads this week have been good news for the Canada Line.

Between 7 a.m. on Wednesday and 7 a.m. Thursday, the line recorded more than $45,000 in ticket sales, with $37,000 of that in cash and fare-saver tickets, $5,700 in credit and $2,900 in debit.

The number of cash sales, he said, likely means people are testing the system ahead of Sept. 7, when TransLink cancels or diverts several of its long-haul bus routes to Bridgeport Station to encourage passengers to ride the Canada Line.

“What that means is there’s a higher level of sampling going on now,” Hardie said, adding, “Things have got off to an excellent start on the Canada Line.”

The biggest peak in ridership has been in the afternoons, coinciding with the arrivals and departures of most international flights.

“There’s an incredibly steady flow of passengers,” said airport spokeswoman Rebecca Catley. “We’re seeing a lot more people coming off with bags. People have embraced it quickly.”

The airport has added extra staff on the floor to guide travellers to their departure lounges or help them find the train once they arrive in Vancouver.

August is typically the airport’s busiest month, with the third weekend usually recording the highest number of passengers coming through.

But Catley said it’s not just travellers using the Canada Line: More people are coming to the airport to watch planes land and take off from the airport’s new observation deck.

“It’s just surprising. That area has always been very quiet and now it’s teeming with people,” she said. “Everything has gone very smoothly; the people are very excited.”

Jason Chan, spokesman for Canada Line operator ProTrans BC, said other busy stations are Waterfront in downtown Vancouver and Richmond’s Bridgeport, the only station where TransLink has a park-and-ride facility at the nearby River Rock Casino.

Just before 4 p.m. Friday, swarms of people were pouring in and out of Waterfront as packed trains headed out toward Richmond-Brighouse and the airport.

Kathleen Lapointe, who lives in Richmond, took the train into Vancouver for a course and said she’s “planning to use it all the time now.”

“I’m very happy,” she said. “I’m so glad it’s here.”

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