In my previous post I looked at why Auckland should be focusing on Vancouver in Canada as a city to emulate, particularly when it comes to public transport. In this post I will look in a bit more detail at Vancouver’s PT patronage success before in future posts moving onto looking at how Vancouver has been so successful at encouraging people onto buses, trains and ferries.
We can recall from the previous post that, setting aside a 2001 drop that was due to a protracted transit worker strike, Vancouver’s PT patronage has grown very steady over the past 20 or so years whereas Auckland’s has bounced around quite a bit before a more recent prolonged upswing: There’s always a bit of statistical debate over whether we should be talking about percentages or actual numbers as being more important here. If we go off percentages then you can see that Vancouver still outperforms Auckland: A key distinction highlighted here is that it took until around 2002 for Auckland’s patronage to return to 1989 levels, thanks to the big dip in the early and mid 1990s. Since 2002 Vancouver has still outperformed Auckland though, with its patronage increasing by 57% compared to 33% in Auckland.
The other key matter to factor in is that Vancouver is a significantly bigger city than Auckland, so it’s important to look at ‘per capita’ patronage levels. Thankfully it seems as though censuses are taken in Canada in the same year as they’re taken in New Zealand, so we can make some comparisons. Note that for this information I’ve deliberately taken 2002 rather than 2001 data for Vancouver – because of the one-off impact of the transit strike in 2001 distracts from the broader trends: If we graph this, you can see that it took until recent years for Auckland to catch up to where it was in the early 1990s on a per capita basis, whereas Vancouver’s totals have increased steadily over the last 20 years: It seems to me that Vancouver’s key to performing well over the past 20 years, when compared to Auckland, is how Vancouver managed to perform pretty well during the 1990s whereas Auckland largely went backwards. Plus in more recent years when patronage has increased it has gone up hugely – very impressive when you’re already coming off a very high base.
The key question, obviously, is to look at how Vancouver has managed this. And also, perhaps most importantly, how Vancouver has benefited from this huge boost in PT patronage over the past 20 years because – after all – higher use of public transport is really a means to an ends, rather than an endpoint in and of itself. Answers to those questions will be the subject of future posts, although for those people who have commented on previous posts pointing out that they lived in Vancouver, I’m really keen for your take on how Vancouver has managed these pretty remarkable statistics.