Transit ridership and service figures unclear

Two separate TransLink reports still show contradictory service and ridership figures, despite assurances to the Georgia Straight that the discrepancy would be addressed.

By the Straight’s deadline, the TransLink Web site ( still had the incorrect figures on display.

In a July 11 report to his board, TransLink planning vice president Glen Leicester noted: “Transit ridership in the Vancouver region has grown by 27 percent since 1999 in response to an 18-percent increase in transit service (all modes), major investments such as the Millennium Line, the new B-Line”¦as well as the U-Pass at SFU and UBC.”

A November 2 report from Leicester contained the same paragraph, but this time the ridership increase was 33 percent and the service increase 27 percent.

In both reports, Leicester follows the opening paragraph with identical information, including the claim that 2006 will see “the biggest expansion in bus service in the history of TransLink, as well as its predecessor, B.C. Transit”.

Jim Houlahan, vice president of CAW Local 111—which represents transit operators in the region—said he read through the reports himself to prepare to speak to the board at a November 17 meeting in Surrey. “What did he [Leicester] do to get a jump in what looks like otherwise identical paragraphs: cut and paste from one report to the other?” Houlahan asked.

(Houlahan also disputes TransLink’s promise to add 168,000 hours of service to conventional bus services.)

TransLink spokesperson Ken Hardie told the Straight his staff “had to stroke their chin a few times before they discovered in fact what had happened between these two reports”.

“Our preference has always been that if you’re going to do progressive board reports, always use the same terms of reference,” Hardie added. “In this case, there’s more than a couple of planners down there. Sometimes one guy will write a piece and another guy will write another.”

When the Straight told Hardie the different percentages referred to the same terms of reference in each case—ridership and service increases since 1999—he said, “Well, not quite. The numbers quoted in the July report represented the period from 1999 to the end of 2005. The one in November went from B.C. Transit’s last year running the system—1998—through to the end of 2006. We’ve got a pretty good fix on where we’re going to be [at the end of 2006]. That’s the difference.”

When asked if there was any reason why TransLink planners did not explain this difference, Hardie said, “No, but I think they will next time.”

Houlahan said he is still scratching his head in response to Hardie’s explanation.

“If you accept his explanation for the discrepancy in the numbers five months apart as one being to the start of ’06 and one to the end of ’06, the ridership didn’t go up six percent, and the service didn’t go up nine percent [in 2006],” he said. “The ridership went up 3.2 percent in 2006—he [Leicester] says it in that same paragraph in the November report—and right now the service is up five percent this year, if we’re lucky.”