Any time I hear TransLink in the media these days, it is usually followed by some sort of negative statement. I wanted to do a quick comparison of how TransLink compares with some other large west coast cities. I collected a number of simple, somewhat easy to collect metrics from Vancouver (TransLink), Seattle (King County), Portland (Tri Met) and San Francisco (Muni Transit). Read on...
Before looking at the comparison charts, some variables to consider, TransLink figures are in Canadian Dollars while the others are US Dollars, they are subject to exchange rate differences and purchasing prices of everything from vehicles to fuel. San Francisco information does not include suburbs. Below is a comparison of several metrics including population, service area, ridership, fleet size, number of employees, mode share, and revenue and expenditure.
Looking at the above metrics, and somewhat ignoring SF as it does not include any suburbs:
There really are too many variables with each location to draw accurate conclusions, however, I did make an attempt at equating the expenditure of each organisation to the number of fleet vehicles, population, service area and ridership.
We know Vancouver's expenditure is the highest, likely somewhat due to its location in Canada. When equating expenditure with the number of fleet vehicles, Vancouver places second lowest, a good thing, meaning it costs less to operate each vehicle than in Portland and San Francisco.
Equating expenditure to population and area, is San Francisco inefficient because its costs are so high for such a small area and per head of population? Or is that a good thing and indicates excellent transit provision? Mode share would suggest high values here are effective at getting people on transit. In both these categories, TransLink is in second place, albeit considerably lower values than San Francisco.
While San Francisco has the highest costs per head of population and area, it has the lowest cost per rider. This would suggest its vehicles are running closer to capacity and being used most efficiently which makes sense for such a compact dense service area. Vancouver's costs are the highest in this category, perhaps suggesting less efficiency and more empty vehicles, this isn't surprising considering TransLink must serve the suburbs which are always likely to have lower ridership. Vancouver isn't far away from Portland or Seattle which must also serve their own suburbs, and given their operating costs are likely lower, suggest TransLink are probably doing a fair job going by this metric also.
Takeaways from this analysis, things cost different amounts in different places, and no two places are the same. A comparison with some Canadian cities may provide some better insights, watch this space.