Some Translink statistic

November 28, 2011

Some preliminary statistics essentially compiled of Translink Annual performance reviews (BC Transit service plans before 1998) and APTA for ridership and US data.

Ridership evolution since 1986 (unlinked trip)

Ridership per mode since 1986 (unlinked trip)

Translink ridership 1986-2010 (unlinked trip)

  • Due to the Olympic Games in 2010, it is probably prematured to draw conlusions, but if the trend maintains in 2011, and preliminary result of APTA shows that, it clearly demonstrates that canada Line has boosted the ridership by a significant number…
  • Of interest is also the slow erosion of the ridership on the trolleybus system, the avent of the Canada Line, not only didn’t have stopped it, but seems to have amplified it:

Things happen like if rider having to take a trolley all the way to DwonTwon, could now prefer to take a bus (especially north of 41st) to the Canada Line: That trend seems corroborated by the recent surge in ridership on route like 49, and seems to say a lot on how the transit rider behave in front of choice –direct but slow route– vs –fast with transfer

Ridership per capita since 1986 (unlinked trip)

Unlinked Transit trip per Capita 1986-2010


In agrowing region, it is important to see if ridership effectively growth on a capita basis, it is…
The figure above also indicates – in relative to ridership number normalized in 2000 – the gas consumption per capita.

  • It appears clearly enough that the gas tax, which has increased from 10c, in 2000, to 17c/l recently, is not a sustainable funding option to Translink… neither property tax, is!

Below, are some statistics, published now, to provide numbers to substantiate a discussion following a recent post on the priceTag blog.

Operating cost per trip

Operating cost per mode

To benchmark the operating cost/trip per mode, we have choose the US average per mode data, mostly because they are readily available, and also because the size of the LRT sampling is big enough to be meaningful. because the perating cost is mainly dependent of the wage, the $US currency has been kept. There is 2 remarkable things to note in the graph above:

  • The operating cost per trip of LRT or bus is very close. When you consider that in a typical system the LRT will operate the trunk route, while the bus will be asked to operate “social” service, which provide endemic ridership, it is hard to single out a mode as better than another one when taken on average on the basis of operating cost. that has been true for the last 25 years
  • The Translink bus operating/trip growth less than the US one, but what is the most striking is that in 1987, the operating cost/trip of the skytrain was $1.35. In 2010, it was $1.12. Nowadays, the average operating cost/trip of a US LRT is $US3.03…

Total Skytrain trip cost

Skytrain Operating plus Debt service cost (1986-2010)

With heavy investment, the operating cost is only part of the story. Usually the debt service is pretty great, an the Sacramento example previously presented illustrates it as well for “cheap” LRT.
The Skytrain debt service has been computed assuming a 30 years amortization at fixed rate, the rate was the 10 years+ Canada bond rate, at the date of the delivery of the purchase (opening new line, delivery of vehicles… It looks a pretty reasonable assumption since the number align pretty well with the one reported by BC Transit before 1998-Translink doesn’t carry the debt of the Skytrain). So far $2.7 billions of initial capital investment in the Skytrain network (Expo and Millennium lines have been accounted.

Obviously the opening of the Millennium line in the aftermath of a strike, has impacted severely the debt/trip.
The overall ridership on the network has absorbed it, and the Skytrain debt level was estimated at $2.87 per trip in 2010.

For Matter of comparison the total cost per trip of the Canada line was $3.99/trip, so like the Skytrain, in 2010…

non edited spreadsheet with original number available here (google docs spreadsheet ).

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11 Responses to “Some Translink statistic”

  1. rico Says:

    Thanks for the work, would maintainance be a seperate cost, or is that part of operating cost? I noticed in the UBC/Broadway study the RRT had higher maintainance costs than the others. The next question is more conceptual, when the 30yr amortization is up is it fair to call the debt cost 0 or should the amortization period be extended (just for more fair across the board comparisons)? After all 2015 is just around the corner…can’t have Skytrain looking too cheap….lol.

  2. Voony Says:

    -Maintenance is here included in operating cost.
    I have also noticed that according the Translink sheet, the maintenance cost is high and “running” cost low: I guess that is an inherent feature of a driverless system…you don’t need a driver but you need to maintain all the infrastructure allowing that.

    On the end of the amortization period, basically starting in 2016, yes debt level could be reduced by something like $1/trip…
    The catch is that we are bound for more or less serious upgrade of the Expo line (including at minimum refurbishing of the original fleet), so the reduction on debt exposure could be less dramatic.

  3. rico Says:

    Next question, where the costs trended to a common year? If not the cost decline from $1.35 in 1987 $ to $1.12 in 2010 $ is very dramatic, but probably makes sense due to higher ridership.

  4. Voony Says:

    The cost has been trended for the years I have incomplete data. for the Skytrain: I don’t have the operating cost for the years 89,90 and 91.
    Yes the ridership growth explain why the operating cost has declined over time, but also the “automated” technology, because in a traditional system, adding train means adding operators too, what is not necessarily true with the Skytrain.

  5. rico Says:

    Actually what I was asking is are the dollars in year of expenditure or have they been adjusted for inflation (ie $1.35 in 1987 is the same as $2.29 in 2010 (from Bank of Canada inflation calculator)? So that would mean operating costs declined from $2.29 in 1987 to $1.12 in 2010, more than half.

  6. Voony Says:

    Good point. No expenditure is not adjusted to inflation so you read correctly:
    I have added the inflation rate in the “operating cost per mode”:
    Skytrain operating cost looks pretty immune to inflation…operating cost of other considered mode have evolved faster than inflation…

  7. rico Says:

    Not sure we are on the same page. Because of inflation a dollar in 1987 is worth more than a dollar in 2010 so in reality the $1.35 operating cost in 1987 is really worth $2.29 in 2010 dollars. This means that operating costs have not been generally flat, but have declined significantly (by more than half per trip).

  8. Voony Says:

    yes, Skytrain operating cost have declined when inflation is taking account

  9. Tessa Says:

    Minor point on the graph with ridership based on mode: It should be noted that there are fewer overall trolley bus routes in the city compared to 10 years ago – at the very least the #16 route is no longer a trolley. I can’t remember if there were other routes discontinued as trolley bus or not.

  10. Voony Says:

    Tessa, I think you mean the route #15 but you are right. It is not a minor point (especially when some folk could tend to conclude the trolley decrease reflects an overall Vancouver transit decrease to the benefit of the SoF area).


  11. […] the purpose to document our different posts, such as this one, we use to maintain a couple of spreadsheet related to Translink, which I have updated and put […]


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