Several local blogs have trumpeted TransLink’s claim that March’s ridership is up over 19% from the same time last year.
Yet ‘Zwei’ has some nagging questions as to how TransLink counts transit ridership, especially on the metro system.
Back in BC Transit days, the transit agency proclaimed in annual news releases; “that ridership on the SkyTrain metro has increased by over 10%“, without giving actual ridership numbers. After a great deal of research, ‘Zwei’ found that the numbers claimed by BC Transit for SkyTrain’s ridership had no basis and in fact, were quite misleading. Unlike Calgary Transit’s light rail system, which counted actual (all) boardings three times a year, BC Transit counted partial boardings and relied mainly on estimating car loadings at key points along the line. Further information revealed that bureaucrats were counting 100 persons per full (MK1) SkyTrain vehicle, instead of the at capacity of 75 persons. Also, after finding some base numbers to work with, if one added 10% increases every year as BC Transit claimed, ridership would be on par with what TransLink claims today!
In conversation with a high ranking BC Transit bureaucrat at the time, I was told that; “No way could BC Transit count actual boardings three times a year, as we don’t have the manpower to do it.”
Welcome to 2010.
The SkyTrain metro system is a very expensive operation and needs every cent it can get from TransLink’s farepool, to maintain and operate its ever expanding fleet of vehicles. TransLink has admitted that 80% of SkyTrain customers first use a bus to get to the metro, thus the fare pool share for SkyTrain must take in account this alarming number. Most fares are bought through agents such as grocery and convenience stores, thus revenue collected goes first into a farepool (or whatever you may wish to call it). If the SkyTrain bureaucrats still want to maintain the fairytale that SkyTrain pays its operating costs, it must get an increasing share of the farepool. By overstating ridership on the SkyTrain system, enables bureaucrats to get a larger share of TransLink’s farepool, with the result of robbing the buses of their rightful share of revenue.
TransLink is quite sensitive on the fare evasion issue and the installation of turnstiles; could it be that turnstiles, which are very good at counting ridership, will reveal that TransLink has greatly exaggerated ridership, while at the same time gave a impression of massive fare evasion? It’s too simple, if fare revenue is much less than claimed ridership numbers, then the only assumption is that of massive fare evasion!
Taking a portion of the farepool revenue is called apportioning fares.
With the Seabus, Canadian maritime law demands that exact boarding counts must be made for maritime safety, which was done by having customers pass through turnstiles.
The Canada Line, being a P-3 is even more revenue sensitive than SkyTrain and although it has laser style automatic passenger counters, TransLink doesn’t reveal that if those numbers are indeed the ones claimed for ridership purposes. If the automatic counters are not accurate and if are giving higher than real ridership figures, all is well as the Canada Line will receive more than its fair share from TransLink’s farepool. A nifty trick if you can get away with it.
Before we believe TransLink’s claims of increased ridership, the following questions must be asked:
- How is ridership counted on bus, Seabus, and the metro system? Are they full boarding counts?
- Is there an independent audit of ridership numbers done on an annual or bi annual basis?
- What are the annual fare evasion numbers? What percentage of ridership are they?
- What portion of the farepool is apportioned to bus; Seabus; the SkyTrain metro; the Canada line metro?
- Why will the provincial government not let BC’s Auditor General audit TransLink’s books?
- Are the Canada Line’s automatic passenger counters accurate? Has anyone audited their accuracy?
Before we invest any more money into the regions’ metro and bus system, the taxpayer must be assured that the transit system is giving good value for money. At present, all the public has is TransLink’s word for it and past experience dictate that TransLink’s word is not worth a plugged nickle. Just go and ask Susan Heyes!