Friday, June 01, 2012

Trying to figure out some transit ridership numbers

I have been suspicious of the ridership numbers projected in the LRT evaluation report and some this was confirmed today when I found a bit of data on the number of passengers per day on buses on Douglas from Belliville to Hillside.

When I look at the number of riders that currently use Douglas for part of their trip between Belleville and Hillside, the number ends up being 7,400,000 to 7,700,000 a year.   This comes from BC Transit's own data indicating there are 17,000 to 23,000 passengers per day on this stretch which I found in their Transit Priority Planning document.

Meanwhile in the LRT evaluation the assumption is that buses can only manage 5,366,400 passengers in a year now (3.6 on page 24) .   This is a gap of over two million passengers in the assumed bus ridership than it actually it is now.  The benefits of the LRT rise if you assume that buses currently can only move 71% of what they can actually move.    If you factor this in the cost/benefit analysis changes and makes the LRT not look nearly as good an option.  

The 2,000,000 passenger gap nicely allows for the "latent demand gap" to exist and BC Transit to be happy when ridership reaches the level that it is at now but state it as an increase because of the LRT.

It concerns me that there is such a larger error in an evaluation on a $1,000,000,000 project.  It is one of many errors that I have seen in the evaluation report.   Interestingly, over and over again the errors make the current bus system look bad the LRT good.   If the errors were random they should not be benefiting one solution over the others most of the time.

There are 500 to 900 buses that currently move 17,000 to 23,000 people on the Belliville to Hillside stretch of Douglas.   These buses have an existing capacity of 40,000 to 72,000 people per day.  This is comparable to the absolute maximum the LRT could move of around 60,000, which is only possible if you run the trains at the highest frequency possible for 17 hours of the day.  

The Transit Priority Planning document also says the total ridership per day on Highway #1 is 4000 to 6000.  It means that the demand to go to the Westshore is only 1/4 of the transit traffic on Douglas between Belleville and Hillside.   The transit demand is simply not there and is not even close to being there.  Compare this to the demand on the #14, close to 12,000 riders per weekday.

For Douglas north of Hillside it is 6,000 to 10,000 per day.  For Highway #17 it is 2,000 to 6,000 per day.  The LRT would move all the Peninsula transit onto the LRT as far as Uptown.   This means 8,000 to 16,000 travelling along part of the route between Hillside and Uptown.

I highlight these numbers to show how low the actual current demand is anything beyond Uptown.   Building a $1,000,000,000 LRT where the majority of the route would have very little traffic does not make a lot of sense, it screams expensive white elephant.

If you look at the 10 busiest bus routes, in order #14, #6, #27/28, #26, #30/31, #11, #4, #50, #70s,  and #7, five of them go to UVic and four of them do not use Douglas more than a block.   Of the top four, none of the routes are ones that need the LRT.   The demand is not there for the LRT to be built to the Westshore.  The ridership numbers are not going to magically appear just because some report says they will.

If this LRT is built we will have a much more expensive transit system that will have to cut a lot of bus services.   The LRT will mean above inflation increases in fares and property taxes for decades to come and the ridership goals will not be met.
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