More ‘agile’ transportation system required as TransLink rebuilds ridership: official

Experts debate future mobility trends

A rider on the Canada Line | Photo: Chung Chow, BIV

Fuel up. Sit in traffic. Hunt for parking.

“When I think of the experience of personal car ownership … there are parts of it that are convenient but there are parts of it that are quite jarring,” Peter Lukomskyj, Lyft Canada Inc.’s B.C. general manager, told a Greater Vancouver Board of Trade panel Thursday.

“And when you really think about what you're trying to accomplish, which is moving from point A to B, none of those things are things that anybody really wants to do.”

Lukomskyj made the remarks with a panel of experts examining trends in mobility, which have been largely upended in the wake of the pandemic.

He revealed he’s eager to deploy other Lyft offerings, such as a service in which strangers can share a ride headed in the same direction to save some money, “when the time is right” to deploy vehicles more efficiently throughout the region.

The rapid shift towards remote working over the past has seen transit ridership decline over the past 14 months, but panellist Niklas Kviselius, the manager of new mobility strategic planning and policy at TransLink, said the transit authority is hopeful the mass vaccination campaign will change perceived safety concerns over travelling.

“We are recovering a bit slowly now. I think ridership is currently hovering around 40% of pre-COVID levels and it will take some time to rebuild,” he said.

“So we have to kind of plan a more agile system. But the general trend of growth … has not disappeared.”

Sandra Phillips, CEO of Vancouver-based Movmi Shared Transportation Services Inc., said the region requires a “Swiss Army knife”-like array of different mobility options to influence future travel habits across the region.

Instead of reliance on car ownership and transit, commuters can also come to depend on a mix of car-share and bike-share programs to move around the region.

“What we know is for far too long, cities have been designed with a single occupancy car in mind and my city is no different. The region is no different,” said City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan, whose community announced Monday it had selected San Francisco-based Lime (Neutron Holdings Inc.) to deploy 200 e-bikes for a two-year pilot program.

“This leaves many people without options on how to move around not only their community … but also how they move about the region.”

Meanwhile, Kviselius said transit authorities can do a better job of gathering customer data and using it for decision-making purposes.

“I think a lot of the data we are generating in the system can really [be much] better used by third party, private sector companies,” he said.

“I'm envious often of the ride-hailing business really, really gathering data and acting upon it.”