A new survey of trip trends in the region found not as many people are taking transit as some observers expected.

Transit gaining little ground against car use

Drivers still dominate latest TransLink trip survey

The car remains king – despite the aim of getting many more Metro Vancouverites taking transit, cycling or walking.

TransLink’s trip diary survey takes a 24-hour snapshot of residents’ movements every three years and newly released results show transit use hasn’t caught on as fast as many advocates had hoped.

The share of trips taken on transit in the region edged up only slightly from 13 per cent in 2008 to 14 per cent in 2011.

Walking has stayed unchanged through multiple surveys at about 11 per cent.

And cycling grew from 1.5 to 1.8 per cent in the three-year period.

Meanwhile, 73 per cent of all trips were taken by car – down only slightly from 75 per cent in 2011 and 77 per cent in 1994.

“I think we’re going in the right direction,” SFU City Program director Gordon Price said.

But he acknowledged the latest numbers are a long way from the goals set out in TransLink’s Transportation 2040 plan, which aims to have the majority of trips in the region taken by the sustainable modes of transit, walking or cycling by that year.

“It does tell me that people are still in the learning mode,” Price said. “You don’t get instant conversion. There really is a learning experience you have to go through.”

Price is among those who saw the 2010 Olympics as a major turning point for transit in Metro Vancouver, converting dyed-in-the-wool drivers when they saw how effective good transit could be.

He’s still optimistic that more detailed trip numbers still to be released for each sub-region will show big gains in cities served by the Canada Line.

But he also expects the regional average numbers released so far mask big disparities in transit and car use between the rapidly growing outer suburbs and Vancouver and other areas where transit has taken off.

“It suggests to me we’re seeing the emergence of two different kinds of regions – one car-dependent and the other with transportation choice.”

He noted transit capacity has been significantly expanded in recent years, although some of it is now slated to be pared back.

TransLink board chair Nancy Olewiler thinks transit’s mode share may be higher than the 14 per cent found in the new trip diary survey.

She noted transit ridership numbers have climbed six to seven per cent a year and she says TransLink’s ongoing count of that may be more accurate than a one-day sample from 22,000 households.

“I wouldn’t put that much emphasis on it,” Olewiler said. “I trust the numbers from our passenger counters more.”

The trip diary numbers show more trips were taken on every mode of travel and overall trip numbers also rose by 5.9 per cent, slightly faster than the rate of population growth.

The average number of trips taken each day per person rose to 2.77 from 2.7 in 2008.

Cycling trips up but mainly in Vancouver

The number of bike-only trips rose 26 per cent from 2008 but that gain was concentrated in the City of Vancouver

More than half of the 106,500 cycling trips a day were made to or from work, according to TransLink’s trip diary results for 2011.

Region-wide, it found there were 4.9 bike trips per 100 residents.

That soared to 12.1 trips per 100 residents in Vancouver, with particularly heavy concentrations along the Broadway corridor and Strathcona-Commercial Drive.

Richmond/Delta was the second highest sub-region at 3.4 trips per 100, followed by 2.8 on the North Shore, 2.6 in Burnaby/New Westminster, 1.7 in Langley/Surrey/White Rock and 1.7 in the Northeast sector.

The 1.8 per cent mode share of overall trips by bike would have to hit 10 per cent by 2040 to reach the goal set in the Regional Cycling Strategy.

The survey shows 22 per cent of commute trips by car drivers were less than five kilometres and many of those could be taken by bike instead.

TransLink has put plenty of money into cycling infrastructure, including the Central Valley Greenway, the BC Parkway and the Canada Line bike/pedestrian bridge.