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TransLink ridership rebound outperforms other transit systems

TransLink's September ridership rebound from 2019 exceeded the Canadian average
High gasoline prices and a return to offices and schools helped ridership jump in September.

Metro Vancouverites returned to taking transit in September in proportionally greater numbers than did others who live in urban areas across the country. 

Statistics Canada today released data showing that countrywide, transit services in September had recovered ridership to about 73.5 per cent of what it was in that month in 2019. TransLink CEO Kevin Quinn in September said that his transit service had increased ridership in that month to be about 77 per cent of where it was in September 2019.

TransLink's ridership at the time had increased to an average of about 330,000 daily riders, Quinn said.

Canada-wide, urban transit passenger trips reached a pandemic-era high of 120.6 million trips in September 2022, according to the nation's number cruncher.

"Fewer people were working from home in September 2022," it explained in a statement. "With students heading back to school and more people returning to workplaces amid elevated gas prices, public transit ridership reached its highest level since the onset of the pandemic."

Operating revenue at transit systems enjoyed a bump thanks to the higher ridership. 

Total revenue at those systems reached $273 million in September – a 44.3-per-cent increase from about 189.2 million in September 2021. This was the highest monthly revenue since before the pandemic started in March 2020, but it was down by about 26 per cent, or $96 million from September 2019, according to Statistics Canada.

TransLink's most recent financial information is for the six months that ended June 30. The transit system generated $1.09 billion in revenue in that period, or more than 14 per cent more than the $954.7 million in revenue that was expected. 

TransLink's surprisingly high amount of revenue generated in the first six months of 2022 helped it post a $114.2 million surplus in that time period, compared to what was expected to be a $37.8 million deficit. 

That surplus included $176 million in senior-government relief funding in the first three months of 2022, according to TransLink. It also included $14.6 million in previously deferred senior-government funding related to the Surrey-Newton-Guildford SkyTrain project. One hit to its bottom line in that time period was a $44.9-million write-down of capital assets related to that SkyTrain project. 

"The surplus for 2022 is forecast to be $136.1 million favourable to budget," TransLink said in its June 30 financial and performance report.

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