YRT ridership up 36 per cent, nearing pre-pandemic levels

By Gene Pereira, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

The amount of people riding York Region Transit (YRT) has almost returned to the pre-pandemic numbers.

In a recent meeting, York Region council announced in its 2023 Transit System Performance Report that ridership last year reached 21.1 million, a staggering 36.6 per cent increase over 2022 ridership.

Transit numbers in the region prior to COVID-19 reached 22.3 million in 2019, but two years later only 9.4 million had used the service.

Those ridership numbers jumped to 15.5 million in 2022 and increased by almost another six million riders this past year as local residents return to using transit to get to work, to school and where they need to go.

On-Request and Mobility On-Request services also saw a big jump in their ridership numbers. On-Request travellers increased to 106,419, up 40 per cent, while Mobility On-Request users jumped 47 per cent to 333,978 riders.

“It is wonderful news to see ridership across York Region increase by 36 per cent,” said Iain Lovatt, Mayor of Whitchurch-Stouffville and York Region Vice-Chair of Transportation Services. “Stouffville ridership currently remains low due to insufficient transit options.

“As Stouffville grows, we look forward to increased investment in new routes that will connect our town to the broader regional transit network.”

A focus on planning has helped shape and connect communities and given riders the confidence to return and trust the system for their everyday travels.

“York Regional council’s ongoing commitment to public transit ensures safe and reliable transportation said Wayne Emmerson, York Region Chairman and CEO. “YRT’s continued innovative services reflect our responsiveness to growing ridership, changing travel patterns and diversifying community needs.”

Proof of the high reliability of the YRT service is shown in its ability to meet on-time performance targets despite the changing travel demands and schedule adjustments required to satisfy the rider.

The regional transit system remains highly reliable with impressive numbers of 93 per cent for conventional service, 97 per cent for Viva and 94 per cent for Mobility On-Request services.

With the big increase in ridership growth, fare revenue also jumped up to $72 million in 2023. That’s up significantly compared to the $52 million collected in 2022.

Costs also went up as York Region had to deal with resuming services, inflation, rising fuel prices while a fare increase was frozen.

The approved 2024 operating budget will see a three per cent transit fare increase set to begin in July of 2024.

“Balancing increasing ridership, reliability and innovative initiatives show investments in the system are working,” said Aurora Mayor Tom Mrakas, Chair of Public Works – Transportation Services. “YRT continues to enhance customer service, advocate for affordability, lower emissions and ensure assets are in good repair for generations to come.”

Key initiatives in the performance report included some 123 service improvements, the addition of two new electric buses to the fleet, the opening of Major Mackenzie West Terminal in Vaughan and the introduction of PRESTO contactless payment and PRESTO in Google Wallet.

In its fleet, York Region has over 560 vehicles, including 440 conventional buses, 90 Rapid Transit buses and 30 On-Request vehicles.

Its on-street infrastructure includes three operation, maintenance and storage facilities, as well as 87 curbside vivastations, 76 Rapidway vivastations and seven terminals.

Beginning in February of this year, riders no longer had to pay a double fare thanks to York Region teaming up with the provincial government and other GTA transit agencies for the One Fare Program. Riders used to pay double between the YRT and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).

The region also received a $76 million grant and a low-interest loan of up to $137 million towards the purchase of 180 electric buses and associated infrastructure through the Government of Canada Zero Emission Transit Fund.

This will help move up the goal of electrification of the fleet in York Region by 10 years.


Photo: The amount of people riding York Region Transit has almost returned to the pre-pandemic numbers. (York Region Transit photo).


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