A map showing ridership recovery in sub regions of TransLink. (TransLink/Special to The News)

A map showing ridership recovery in sub regions of TransLink. (TransLink/Special to The News)

West Coast Express ridership mostly lost to pandemic

Lougheed RapidBus boosted boardings in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the West Coast Express has been the hardest hit mode of transportation offered by TransLink.

The commuter train that stops twice in Maple Ridge and again in Pitt Meadows on its way to Vancouver’s Waterfront Station has recovered just 17 per cent of its ridership compared with 2019. The report notes that most of these riders are office workers in downtown Vancouver. Average daily boardings dropped to 2,000.

Five daily trains are still cut down to just three, and they are running with fewer cars. All transit use has been reduced by both public heath restrictions, and more people working from home.

TransLink spokesperson Jill Drews said the West Coast Express is regarded as a vital service for the customers still using it, and the transit authority believes ridership levels will climb again.

“We’ve heard a good portion of them are essential workers, many in health sciences,” she said. “The provincial government has made it clear we must maintain normal service levels to support these workers.

“We project ridership will return as the vaccination rollout continues and restrictions are lifted.”

READ ALSO: West Coast Express has been running for 25 years

The 2020 Transit Service Performance Review showed TransLink continued delivering more than 620,000 boardings every weekday. Even at the lowest point of the pandemic, approximately 75,000 people still relied on transit every day, including many essential workers.

Overall, in Metro Vancouver, transit ridership in early fall 2020 recovered to 41 per cent of early fall 2019 levels.

With ridership at 44 per cent of 2019 volumes, the highest ridership retention and recovery was on the bus network. All modes combined recovered 41 per cent, the Expo and Millenium SkyTrain lines 39 per cent, and the Canada Line 32 per cent. Seabus was at 30 per cent, and HandyDART 37 per cent.

READ ALSO: B.C. pilot study to allow e-scooters to operate legally in 6 cities

The 701 maintained its position as the route with the highest boardings in Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows and the new R3 RapidBus generated new ridership demand.

The 701 provides a key east-west connection between Maple Ridge and Coquitlam, along with important local service within Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge.

The RapidBus, which is an express link to the Coquitlam SkyTrain station, had the second-highest boardings in Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows, generating new ridership demand in the sub-region, said the report.

TransLink said the increase in bus service hours provided by the new R3 RapidBus service played an important role in the strong ridership recovery for the Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows sub-region.

Depending on vaccination schedules and regional community immunity, the transit authority projects overall system-wide ridership will return to 70-90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels at some point in 2022.

TransLink secured one of the highest ridership retention rates among the 10 busiest systems in Canada and the United States. TransLink retained 48 per cent of its ridership in 2020, second only to Los Angeles.

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