Langley bus routes booming

TransLink numbers show some routes had up to 2.7 million riders a year.

One of Langley’s fastest-growing bus routes passed the million-rider-per-year mark in 2016, according to TransLink’s Transit Service Performance Review.

The 555 is the express route that runs from the Carvolth transit hub in Willoughby down the Trans Canada Highway to connect with SkyTrain Service.

In 2016, the bus carried 1,068,000 passengers, up from 868,000 in 2015 and just 565,000 in 2013, its first year in operation.

That growth is part of the rapid expansion in ridership in the South of the Fraser region, including Langley. Boardings in the South of the Fraser area, including the Langleys, Surrey, White Rock, and Delta, were up 10 per cent, or 3.7 million rides more than in 2015.

“Overall, the ridership growth across the region is astoundingly high, especially compared to our peers,” said Daniel Freeman, the manager of transit network management at TransLink.

They compared transit growth in Metro Vancouver to other major North American cities. In some cities, transit use is actually declining.

Freeman pointed to other local bus lines that have had high use numbers, like the 502 route that runs from downtown Langley City to and from Surrey Centre.

“It’s a precursor to a B-Line,” Freeman said. The 502 carried 2.7 million riders in 2016, and the B-Line, approved in November but not in service yet, is intended to offer faster service. At present, its average speed is just 25.5 kilometres per hour.

With the approval of Phase One of the Mayors’ Council’s transit expansion plan in November, there will be a 10 per cent increase in bus services in the region. The increase will boost bus capacity 15 per cent South of the Fraser.

Some routes have already seen improvements, such as the 555 from Carvolth and the change to the 595 route that sends it up and down 208th Street through Willoughby.

Freeman said one thing that is shown by the study is that municipalities are doing the right things when it comes to development, building neighbourhoods that are transit accessible.

Some of Langley’s new neighbourhoods, such as Willoughby, have been designed around transit. However, the actual buses have been slow to arrive, as governments wrangled over transit funding and a referendum on a Metro Vancouver sales tax increase failed.

Most of the planned new capacity increase will be on existing routes, but Freeman said a route from East Clayton to Langley Centre will be added this September as well.

High-use routes like the 555 are cheaper for TransLink to run. It cost just $1.21 per rider to operate the 555 in 2016 for example. Because service was unchanged from 2015, that meant the cost per rider dropped from $1.49. Cost per rider has dropped ever since 2013, when it was $2.11.

The 502 cost $1.57 per rider in 2016, down from $1.62 the year before.