Abbotsford ridership on the West Coast Express (WCE) is not as high as Mission Mayor Randy Hawes recently maintained.
Hawes has raised the idea of asking City of Abbotsford to help pay for a portion of the $750,000 subsidy that the Mission district pays to TransLink each year to run the commuter train service.
Hawes said recently that 60 per cent of WCE riders leaving the Mission station are from Abbotsford. However, numbers provided by the district tell a different story.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s 2010 Strategic Review of Transit in the Fraser Valley, Abbotsford riders only make up 38 per cent of passengers boarding from the Mission WCE station. Mission residents account for 56 per cent of ridership while Chilliwack (three per cent), Harrison (one) and other (two) make up the remainder.
“When I said 60, I knew it was roughly 60/40 but I thought it was the other way around. But I was wrong. That was a mistake I made,” Hawes acknowledged.
Despite the corrected information, Hawes plans to continue his pursuit of cost sharing.
“This is a regional service. I don’t think anybody could possibly dispute that. So the Mission taxpayers paying 100 per cent of the costs that TransLink chooses to put on us, to me doesn’t seem quite fair.”
However, the 60/40 figure may be out of date.
Those numbers are based on a 2010 report, but the mix of Mission riders appears to be even slimmer now, according to the latest TransLink information.
According to manager of media relations for TransLink Cheryl Ziola, every weekday more than 11,000 customers get on and off the WCE at one of eight stations.
And while TransLink does not collect demographic data by station as the 2010 report did, it does conduct an overall ridership survey.
According to the 2014 Customer Service Performance data collected for TransLink by Ipsos Reid, nine per cent of WCE riders polled identified Mission as their municipality of residence, while only two per cent said Abbotsford.
Each year, the District of Mission pays TransLink close to $750,000 towards running the WCE.
According to Hawes, when the WCE was first proposed, it was not going to include a station in Mission because the district is not within TransLink jurisdiction. Instead, the plan was to merely overnight the trains in Mission.
The council at the time told TransLink that it wanted a station.
“Why would you not have a station right beside where the trains are overnighting? It made no sense,” explained Hawes.
A five-year deal was struck which included Mission building the pedestrian overpass that goes over the tracks and paying a fee to TransLink of $120,000 a year.
Hawes said the money helped subsidize the service because passenger fares did not cover all the costs. When the contract came up for renewal, the cost increased.
“It skyrocketed up, and apparently continued to do that until today, when it’s just over $750,000 a year.”
The current contract expires this year and Hawes wants to have a serious talk with the agency.
“The last figure I saw from TransLink, they said the real incremental cost was over $3 million to have TransLink here. I happen to think that’s crazy because they are going to overnight the trains anyway. I think $750,000 is crazy.”
Mission is the only station that pays the $750,000 subsidy because the remaining stations are all part of the TransLink system.