Introduction

An effective public transportation system plays an important role in meeting economic, social and environmental goals. Good public transit shapes the liveability of communities, connecting people to key amenities such as employment, health care, education and recreation.

In British Columbia, the provincial government has articulated a vision for a significant transformation in the way its citizens travel locally. This vision is intended to reduce automobile usage and increase the use of other forms of transportation, such as public transit, cycling and walking. A key reason for this shift is the provincial government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. When the government developed its Climate Action Plan in 2008, it was estimated that transportation accounted for approximately 36 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in B.C.-  making it the largest contributor to the province’s total emissions. The most recent figures available show a similar trend (37 percent).

Figure 1 - Greenhouse gas emissions in British Columbia (click image to enlarge)

The transformative vision is expressed in the Provincial Transit Plan of 2008. The ultimate goals are to:

  • reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as part of the Climate Action Plan;
  • support the economy through more efficient transportation and reduced congestion; and
  • improve transportation options for those with mobility challenges.

To achieve these goals, the government set targets to double transit usage (“ridership”) in British Columbia by 2020  and make a substantial increase in the share of trips British Columbians make by public transit (“mode share”).

Figure 2 - BC Transit ridership baseline 2006/07 and target for 2020 (click to enlarge)

Figure 3 - BC Transit mode share baseline and targets for increase by 2020 (click image to enlarge)

The plan includes targets for public transportation in both the Lower Mainland (TransLink’s area of operation) and in the rest of B.C. (BC Transit’s area of operation). 

Figure 4 -  Communities with BC Transit systems (click image to enlarge and view statistics)

 

This report focuses on BC Transit. TransLink does not fall within the Auditor General’s oversight role, given it is outside of the government reporting entity.

Large-scale shifts of this nature occur over a significant period of time, and generally require changes in at least three main areas, which are the focus of our report:

  • policy and governance;
  • funding; and
  • design of transit services.