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July 27,2007 Tri City News

By Jeff Nagel Black Press

Transit ridership in Greater Vancouver hit an all-time record in June.

More than 26.5 million people boarded a bus, community shuttle, SkyTrain, SeaBus or West Coast Express train that month, according to TransLink estimates.

That broke the old one-month record of 26.1 million set last November but it may not stand long as the post-Labour Day commuting crush could well bring a new high in September.

Ridership for the first six months of the year is now estimated at 147.5 million, up 4.8% from the same six months in 2006.

“With rising gasoline prices, scarcity of parking in core areas and more sensitivity to the environment and traffic congestion, we can expect to see more record highs like this,” TransLink chair Malcolm Brodie said.

He said new buses and SkyTrain cars on order as well as a planned third SeaBus “will all be well used the moment they go into service.”

West Coast Express commuter train service measured the sharpest rise, up 9.8% to 1.27 million riders in the first half of the year.

Bus use, including community shuttles, was up 5.3% while SkyTrain ridership rose 3.2%. The number of SeaBus passengers climbed 2.8%.

TransLink surveys show ridership tends to rise with the price of gas but other factors include a growing awareness of climate change and the federal government’s new tax credit for monthly transit passes.

Bus boost coming

Extra buses will hit the road in September, allowing TransLink to accelerate the planned launch of improvements identified through its South of the Fraser Area Transit Plan.

Total transit service hours are to rise 4.8% by the end of the year. Routes where service is to be improved include community shuttle service upgrades in Port Coquitlam (C36, C40).

The improvements are to broaden the reach of TransLink’s “frequent transit network”, which aims to provide more residents with service at least every 15 minutes, 15 hours a day. The extra rubber on the road isn’t expected to vanquish transit congestion, however. Every increase in capacity is quickly used and TransLink plans to order another 254 buses next year in its ongoing battle to keep pace with demand.

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