The seamless (no transfer) journey – Transit’s Holy Grail!


It has been long known that the seamless or no transfer journey is the ‘ticket’ to attract customers to public transit as it is well understood that one could lose upwards of 70% of ridership per transfer, even inter modal. On older tramways and streetcar systems, many lines offered more than one service, providing the all important seamless journey to many destinations. Cities that abandoned there streetcar/tramway’s in favour of subways, forced many customers to first take a bus to the metro and then for many, transfer again. Many former transit customers found that the car provided the seamless journey and with the added advantage being easier and less time consuming to use.

Though transit officials were aware of the problem of loss of ridership due to transfer, little was done to improve the situation until a very dramatic event happened in 1993, in Karlsruhe Germany. When Karlsruhe’s first two-system or tram train line opened, replacing one major transfer point (commuter train to tram) at the main train station, ridership surged way beyond expectations! Weekday ridership on the tram train increased 423% in just a few weeks.

Before LRT

Commuter train            After LRT                  % increase

Weekdays – 488,400                    2,064,378                      423%

Saturday   – 39,000                         263,120                         675%

Sunday  –  6,200                               227,478                       3,669%

Total     –  533,600                       2,554,976                          479%

(Albtal-Verkengesllschaft Karlsruhe & ABB Henchel)

Since Karlsruhe’s dramatic increase in patronage on their tram train system, European planners have put great emphases on the all important seamless (no-transfer) journey and designed new transit lines, not as feeders to subways or regional railways but as stand alone transit lines servicing major destinations, even in competition with other transit modes.

The lesson of Karlsruhe should not be lost on the advocates for the return of the Valley interurban service, who want the new service to terminate at Scott Road SkyTrain Station and compel those who want to go to Vancouver to transfer to SkyTrain. The all important seamless journey from Vancouver to Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack may just provide the ridership to make the new service successful!


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One Response to “The seamless (no transfer) journey – Transit’s Holy Grail!”

  1. David Says:

    Seamless travel is a wonderful idea, but awfully hard to achieve. Look at all the suburb to suburb commuting in Metro Vancouver. When only 20% of any origin wants to reach a given destination it’s impossible to justify a dedicated rail line. Sometimes it’s hard to even justify a direct bus route.

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