Tuesday, May 31, 2011

LRT ridership numbers

I have been looking forwards and backwards to figure out how the ridership numbers were developed for the LRT concept for this region.

First of they are saying in their report that 5.4 million trips are taken on the route of the LRT now.   I am not sure how that number can be correct as this would represent 21.4% of all bus trips in the region.   In find this number curious as I can not reconcile it with actual traffic numbers.

The top three bus routes are #14, #6 and #26/28 - these three routes carry around one third of all the passengers in this region.  

If we take all the people using the #30/31, #50, #51, #60, #70 and #75, we get to 23%.  But in a business as usual case, the #51, #70 and #75 would not be counted as they would not be altered to go along the LRT line.   This drops the the business as usual numbers to about 16% of the regional traffic or about 4,000,000 passengers, not the 5,400,000 they are claiming.  

They are suggesting if nothing is done there will be a 33% increase in bus traffic.

I look than at bus rapid transit and they claim this will carry 6,500,000 a year as of 2015.   This is 40% increase on the current traffic.   Even if we one re-routes all the peninsula traffic and makes Westshore students going to UVic use the BRT, they are still suggesting a dramatic increase in ridership as soon as it starts.

Then we get to the LRT ridership numbers.   They are projecting that the LRT will have 7 million passengers on a route that currently has 4 million passengers and even with everything routed onto the LRT, the total current load could not be boosted over 5.5 million.   Where will these 1.5 million trips come from?   Who are they?

1.5 million passenger trips is 750,000 round trips or 3500 daily commuters.   To give you an idea what that means, that would mean 115% the number of people that currently use the #50 bus.  

They then project that the LRT will almost double their ridership in 22 years.   That is a further 14,000 daily commuters.   This seems to run counter to their work in the report that indicates the growth in trips in the region will be firstly within the core, second within the Westshore and a distant third is traffic between the Westshore and the core.

I can find no evidence of why they think that the LRT will attract more passengers than BRT, even tough it is not faster and is less flexible.  I also do not know how they can assume that the LRT will any dramatic number of passengers over the status quo.   Where is the work to back this up?

Using examples from around the US and Canada, and correcting for what seem to errors in the report, as far as I can tell, the ridership of the LRT on opening day will be about 5,500,000 passenger trips per year, 1,500,000 fewer than they suggest.   I can not find an example of a system that would indicate that my assumptions are wrong.

I base my numbers of growth between now and 2016, preference of rail to bus, the total passenger volume on routes #30/31, #50, #51, #60, #70 and #75, losses due to longer trips because of transfers, and changes to working patterns.   Doing this I get to 5,500,000.   The loss of passengers due to transfers and changing work patterns will easily outstrip the natural growth in transit use in the next five years.   There is no strong correlation in the data to indicate that rail service will sttract more people than buses.   The data in the US and Europe gives us no clear picture.  In that case it is safest to assume that there is no marked increase in use because of the change in mode.

I am not going to project out to 2038 what the ridership numbers will be because I have no idea what will be happening for workplaces, we could have 20-30% of people working at home, vehicle technology, electric cars could be dramatically cheaper to operate per hour than conventional cars in 2038.   We do not know if we will have a dramatic change in settlement patterns as well.   We really do not know what the future of transit demand will look like.   When we look out further than 2038, it does not take long before the population stops growing.

Projecting travel times and ridership in 2038 is honestly rather misleading because there is no way to substantiate the numbers.  

The ridership numbers are all highly suspect.
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