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Managing the Transit Network

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    We regularly review and adjust our transit services as the region’s needs evolve. Doing so enables us to better serve our customers throughout Metro Vancouver. We're continually working to serve more people, provide new connections, and reduce overcrowding within our current resources.

    Managing the transit network involves developing policies, guidelines, and performance indicators for transit service. We apply this guidance in developing, evaluating, and implementing transit service changes.

    Network Design Objectives

    A bus parked at a bus bay in front of a SkyTrain station on a bright and sunny day

    TransLink manages and invests in the regional transit network with the assumption that public transit offers a wide range of benefits to the people who live in Metro Vancouver

    To achieve these benefits, we follow three simple objectives when designing and managing the transit network:

    • Maximize ridership

    • Encourage long-term ridership growth

    • Provide access to transit service across the region

    All three objectives are important, but sometimes trade-offs must be made. Making these decisions is where we ask for input and guidance from our partners and the public.

    Maximizing ridership involves meeting existing demand for transit service. Services designed to build ridership tend to target areas that have many people working or living in proximity, such as a downtown core, an urban centre, or along a well-developed corridor.

    We maximize ridership by:

    1. Providing reliable and predictable service.

    2. Providing more and/or better service where there is already high ridership or overcrowding.

    3. Providing service where there is anticipated to be high ridership, typically where there is some mix of:

      • higher residential or commercial density

      • major activity centres

      • pedestrian networks that make walking easy and pleasant

      • measures that discourage driving, such as limited or expensive parking

    4. Using existing transit infrastructure as efficiently as possible, such as transit priority measures, rapid transit lines, and bus exchanges.

    5. Improving the way people make transit connections so they can reach more destinations in less time.

    Encouraging long-term ridership growth involves building capacity to meet future demand for transit service. We make long-term strategic investments that will gradually grow ridership by supporting transit-oriented development.

    We encourage long-term ridership growth by:

    1. Providing transit service to major new development areas where we expect strong ridership growth.

    2. Providing frequent, all-day service along key corridors to encourage development of communities whose design makes good use of transit resources.

    3. Informing developers and municipalities about the likely service and mobility outcomes of various land use and development options.

    4. Limiting service expansion in areas where transit services are unlikely to be efficient or productive, such as remote or hard to serve areas, or where population is unlikely to grow.

    Providing access to transit service across the region involves maximizing the transit network coverage and ensuring a basic level of service is available to most people for most kinds of trips. Part of our mandate is to serve the needs of people who depend on transit due to age, disability, or other limitations. Given limited financial resources, we must make difficult decisions about how to meet our mandate, while also providing service where demand is greatest, and we can expect high ridership. In some places, we simply can’t provide public transit in a reasonably efficient way. Instead, people in these areas may have to rely on other modes of transportation.

    TransLink provides access to transit service across the region by:

    1. Providing basic, low-frequency transit service in areas of lower density where possible.

    2. Ensuring our services are fully accessible to people of all ages and abilities.

    Network Design Themes

    The way we address our Network Design Objectives varies depending on the individual context, including the local street network, topography and transit ridership. Ridership is influenced, among other factors, by land use, street connectivity, and proximity to major activities centres. These considerations inform how we design the transit network to best serve customers across the region.

    When considering how to design the transit network to best serve customers across the region, we design with key themes in mind: network integration, versatility, efficiency and productivity and partnerships and collaboration.

    Network integration diagram

    For the best mobility, locate where transit service is most frequent.

    Transit ridership grows the most in places where more customers live and where there are more destinations that they want to reach. Because of this, denser, mixed-use developments with walkable streets can support higher levels of transit service. TransLink works with our municipal partners and other stakeholders to ensure the coordination of land use and transportation planning so that development can be served with more frequent transit service.

    Specialized transit is less effective transit.

    We try to design services that are versatile to enable freedom of movement for a diverse range of people and trips.

    Efficient transit allows us to provide more transit.

    We work to serve as many customers as possible with the budget we have. We do this by matching service with the times and places that customers want to use the system.

    For the best mobility, locate where transit service is most frequent.

    Transit ridership doesn’t grow simply because we add more service. Development affects ridership demand and supports higher levels of transit service. We work with our municipal partners and other stakeholders to ensure the coordination of land use and transportation planning so that development patterns support an efficient and productive transit network.

    Transit Service Guidelines

    We use our Transit Services Guidelines to support decision-making related to adding, adjusting, or eliminating transit service. The Transit Service Guidelines bring clarity and consistency to that process to meet changing customer needs. They are founded on the principle of being: accountable, balanced, and collaborative.

    Accountable: Has clear expectations for performance, demand, service quality, and customer expectations.

    Balanced: Considers customers first, along with the needs of local communities, while ensuring the efficient and appropriate use of resources.

    Collaborative: Builds upon partnerships with the public, local government partners, and stakeholders to identify and address issues and opportunities proactively and collaboratively.

    The guidelines are designed to provide flexibility in response to customer needs and community expectations in an accountable, equitable, and efficient manner. They also communicate expectations for service delivery to partner agencies and local governments, as well as to TransLink’s customers and the public.

    The guidelines typically define minimum thresholds, which are often exceeded when applied to actual service. They apply to conventional transit services, which include bus, ferry (SeaBus), and rail (SkyTrain, Canada Line, and West Coast Express).

    Download the Transit Service Guidelines

    2021 Transit Service Performance Review

    Masked customers boarding a bus

    The Transit Service Performance Review (TSPR) is published annually and provides a comprehensive review of ridership trends across all modes of our transit system.

    Given the fluctuations in ridership over the course of 2021 due to evolving public health restrictions, there was no “average” day in 2021. For this reason, the 2021 TSPR focuses on the most stable period of ridership – September to December – instead of the entire year.

    The TSPR’s findings help guide our decision making and inform network adjustments, to ensure our services best meet the needs of our customers.

    Key findings of the 2021 TSPR:

    • In fall 2021, nearly 2.2 million unique customers used the transit system, equivalent to 84% of the Metro Vancouver population.

    • TransLink’s 224 million total annual boardings exceeded most American counterparts, including boardings in the Boston and Atlanta metropolitan areas, combined. System-wide ridership recovery also exceeded the average recovery rate across large Canadian and American transit agencies.

    • High-frequency bus services continued to drive ridership across the region.

    • RapidBus routes saw some of the highest ridership in the region, with three RapidBuses ranked among our top 10 busiest bus routes (R1, R4, and R5).

    • Ridership continued to return slightly more on weekends than on weekdays.

    • The Southeast sub-region (Surrey, Langley Township, Langley City, White Rock, and North Delta) was the leader in ridership recovery.

    Read the 2021 Transit Service Performance Review

    Download the 2021 Transit Service Performance Review

    Bus & SeaBus Data

    SkyTrain & West Coast Express Data

    HandyDART Data

    HandyDART data is available in the 2021 HandyDART Service Performance Review

    Given the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on transit ridership in 2020, the 2020 TSPR looked a little different than years past. Due to fluctuations in ridership, public health restrictions to non-essential travel, and working from home, there was no “average” day in 2020.

    2020's TSPR focused on an eight-week period from September to November 2020, providing a snapshot of ridership trends during the most stable period of the pandemic.

    Although ridership declined due to the pandemic, the TSPR illustrates that TransLink provided a vital service for our region in 2020, delivering 621,000 journeys every weekday.

    Changes in ridership patterns also illustrate the importance of transit for essential workers and highlight how TransLink tailored its service levels to prioritize routes with the most customers.

    Key findings from the 2020 TSPR:

    • 85% of our bus ridership continues to be carried on routes that provide frequent service throughout the day and during peak periods.

    • 8 of the top 10 busiest bus routes by boardings in 2019 were still among the top 10 routes by boardings.

    • Routes that primarily serve industrial areas were at nearly 70% of 2019 ridership volumes, illustrating that frontline workers were still travelling to and from work.

    • The Southeast sub-region (Surrey, Langley, North Delta, and White Rock) has saw the highest return of bus ridership, with volumes at 55% of 2019 levels, compared to 44% for the overall system.

    • HandyDART customers made almost as many health and medical-related trips in 2020 as they did in 2019. While overall HandyDART ridership was down to 37% of 2019 volumes, HandyDART customers made 100% of dialysis appointment trips, 78% of cancer appointment trips, and 57% of medical appointment trips.

    • TransLink’s ridership levels are consistent with, or above, larger North American metro areas. In September 2020, we had nearly 17 million system-wide boardings, which was more than transit systems in the metro areas of cities such as Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

    CSV Downloads

    When you download this data, you are agreeing to TransLink's data license. Please note that bus CSV files do not contain discontinued routes.

    Bus Data

    SkyTrain & West Coast Express Data

    HandyDART Data

    Some HandyDART data is included in the 2020 TSPR published report. Further HandyDART data will be available in the forthcoming 2020 HandyDART Service Performance Review.

    In 2019, our region reached a record of 452.9 million boardings, while ridership grew 3.6 per cent systemwide. This was largely the result of smart planning, strong municipal collaboration, significant service investments, and a sustained focus on improving customer experience. This is a success story for our entire region.

    Highlights of our success in 2019 include ridership growth on all modes of transit:

    • Bus boardings increased by 3.8%

    • SeaBus boardings increased by 1.2%

    • SkyTrain boardings increased by 3.2%

    • West Coast Express boardings increased by 4.9%

    • HandyDART boardings increased by 5.7%

    Links & Documents

    Report Definitions

    CSV Downloads

    When you download this data, you are agreeing to TransLink's data license. Please note that bus CSV files do not contain discontinued routes.

    Bus & SeaBus Data

    SkyTrain & West Coast Express Data

    HandyDART Data

    2021 HandyDART Service Performance Review

    A HandyDART attendant assisting a woman in a wheelchair

    The 2021 HandyDART Service Performance Review (HDSPR) is TransLink’s third standalone review of HandyDART service. The report presents trends on HandyDART customer experience and service performance in a one-stop shop.

    The 2021 HDSPR examines many of the same metrics as previous reports with a focus on the impacts of COVID-19 on trends.

    Key findings of the 2021 HDSPR:

    • HandyDART demand grew throughout 2021 as COVID-19 public health restrictions eased and vaccination rates increased.

    • The majority of trips made by HandyDART customers in 2021 were for three purposes: dialysis (24% of trips), medical appointments (22% of trips), and day programs (25% of trips).

    • HandyDART’s on-time performance hit a record high of 94% of trips delivered early or on-time.

    • Improvements were made to the customer experience on HandyDART with the integration of Compass on HandyDART.

    Download the 2021 HandyDart Service Performance Review

    HDSPR Archive

    2020 HandyDart Service Performance Review

    The 2020 HandyDART Service Performance Review (HDSPR) is TransLink’s second standalone review of HandyDART service, following the inaugural report in 2019. The report presents trends on HandyDART customer experience and service performance in a one-stop shop.

    The 2020 HDSPR examines many of the same metrics as the inaugural report, with a focus on the impacts of COVID-19 on trends.

    Highlights include:

    • Additional measures such as improved vehicle ventilation, personal protective equipment for drivers, disinfecting, and physical distancing on board were taken to enhance safety during the pandemic.

    • 620,000 HandyDART trips were delivered in 2020, down 55% from 2019.

      • In January and February, ridership was greater than 2019, but by mid-March, the impacts of COVID-19 were felt in Metro Vancouver and demand dropped significantly.

      • In the summer months there was a gradual recovery in ridership, but the impacts of evolving public health orders continued to result in reduced demand.

    • The HandyDART system received a total of 880,000 trip requests.

    • An historic high of 94% of trips were reported as early or on-time.

    • Customer ratings for both HandyDART and Supplemental Taxi were high on the following measures:

      • Service overall

      • On-time performance

      • Ease of booking

    With the growing and aging demographic in Metro Vancouver, demand for HandyDART is expected to increase in the coming years, especially as the COVID-19 recovery continues. This annual review of the HandyDART service will support transparency and help ensure service quality and customer service performance continue to meet the expectations of HandyDART’s diverse customer base.

    Read the 2020 HandyDart Service Performance Review

    2019 HandyDART Service Performance Review

    The 2019 HandyDART Service Performance Review is the first standalone review of HandyDART service. This review is sharing the information that advises HandyDART transit planning and investment.

    Highlights of the Review include that in 2019, HandyDART delivered trips to 1.56 million customers with high ratings:

    • Customer ratings for both HandyDART and for Supplemental Taxi were high on the following measures:

      • Availability: 8.6/10

      • On-time, reliable: 8.0/10

      • Ease of booking a trip: 8.5/10

      • Cleanliness and good repair of the vehicles: 9.3/10

    This review is a benchmark for future HandyDART Service Performance Reviews, providing criteria to measure the growth and improvement of the service.

    While the data in the report is not reflective of HandyDART today, we expect demand to continue to grow as the population of the region ages. We're looking at ways to modernize the service and improve the customer experience, beginning in 2021.

    Read the 2019 HandyDart Service Performance Review

    Transit Network Review

    The Transit Network Review process is part of our ongoing management of the bus network. Reviewing and adjusting the network allows us to best serve customers by relieving overcrowding, increasing the span of service on existing routes and providing new services to communities across Metro Vancouver.

    Consultation for the 2019 Transit Network Review took place in April and October 2019. Read the 2019 Transit Network Review Final Report for details.

    Due to the financial impacts that TransLink has incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, some bus and rail service projects that were approved under Phase Two of the Mayors’ 10-Year Vision are currently paused. These projects, and other proposed transit network changes, will need to be considered under a new Investment Plan. Work on a new Investment Plan is currently underway.

    Mobility Pricing

    Mobility pricing refers to the suite of fees for using everyday transportation services. These include tools like transit fares, bridge tolls, road usage charges, and fees for any other services involved in the movement of people and goods.

    The Mobility Pricing Independent Commission was a group of 14 Metro Vancouver representatives from a variety of organization across the region. They were selected and tasked by the TransLink Board of Directors and the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation to evaluate and make recommendations on how to develop and implement a regional road usage charging policy and system, and assess the implications for pricing of other types of transport and mobility.

    Between July 2017 and May 2018, the Mobility Pricing Independent Commission led the It’s Time project, an extensive research and engagement project that studied ways to reduce congestion, promote fairness, and support continued investment in transportation. This included engagement with more than 17,000 Metro Vancouver residents through:

    • Online engagement;

    • In-person meetings with nearly 200 stakeholders and elected officials; and

    • Three workshops with a 15-member user advisory panel representative of Metro Vancouver’s diverse population and geography.

    In May 2018, the Commission shared their findings with the Mayors’ Council and TransLink Board of Directors in a joint meeting. In the report a set of principles to follow were identified when designing mobility pricing in Metro Vancouver. Two concepts which were explored were also shared in the report:

    • A regional congestion point charge with charge points at, or close to, some or all of the regionally important crossings, complemented by further point charges at locations within the Burrard Peninsula; and,

    • A distance-based charge with two or more zones with varying charge rates throughout Metro Vancouver.

    Both concepts show promising results, and they will require more analysis, including further study of the potential for decongestion charging to coordinate with transit fares and other forms of mobility pricing. The Commission is also recommending further assessment of affordability and equity impacts, an assessment of available technology for distance-based charging, and a study of impacts for business, particularly transport-intensive businesses.

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