Passenger bus and urban transit, 2021
Total revenues for the more than 1,500 passenger bus and urban transit companies in Canada were $23.7 billion in 2021, up 12.1% from 2020 and roughly on par with 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the increase from 2020, lingering impacts from the pandemic lockdown measures continued to be felt.
Subsidies sustain urban transit
With revenues of nearly $20.1 billion in 2021, urban transit agencies—of which there were 104—accounted for most of these revenues (85%). Despite fewer passengers due to pandemic restrictions, revenues remained at historic levels in 2021 largely due to subsidies.
In 2021, the total number of transit passengers fell 13.2% from 2020. However, according to monthly Urban public transit counts, almost half (48.7%) of the 2020 total ridership was from the first three months, prior to any pandemic restrictions.
Overall, transit was on a steady path to recovery in 2021, with ridership as a percentage of the pre-pandemic 2019 level increasing steadily from 28.8% in January to 53.8% in December. For 2021 as a whole, ridership was more than one-third (37.2%) of that reported in 2019.
As public transit was deemed an essential service throughout the pandemic, employment in the industry remained stable in 2021 compared with 2020, while the total revenue-kilometres of service provided was marginally lower over the same period.
Passenger bus industries mixed
Revenues earned from the roughly one dozen interurban and rural bus companies (or intercity) edged down by 2.5% in 2021 to $166.7 million, just over half (50.1%) of the average annual revenue earned by intercity carriers in the three years before the pandemic (2017 to 2019).
The intercity bus industry was hit hard by the travel restrictions and public health measures to combat COVID-19. Due to sustained declines in ridership in the Ontario and Quebec markets, the largest carrier—Greyhound Canada—discontinued all operations on its remaining routes in Canada on May 13, 2021.
Likewise, over 110 charter and sightseeing bus companies were impacted in 2021 by the pandemic; they reported a 16.3% decline in total revenue from 2020, following a 57.7% decrease from 2019 to 2020.
In contrast, total revenues reported from the 389 school and employee bus operators were up 11.2% from 2020 to $2.7 billion in 2021, while the 944 other transit and ground passenger transportation companies, such as airport shuttles, reported an increase in revenues of 15.8% over the same period.
Note to readers
The Annual Passenger Bus and Urban Transit Survey collects financial and operating information from companies operating in Canada.
The survey covers the following North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) 2017 industries: urban transit systems (NAICS 485110); interurban and rural bus transportation (485210); school and employee bus transportation (485410); charter bus industry (485510); other transit and ground passenger transportation (485990); and scenic and sightseeing transportation, land (487110).
The Transportation Data and Information Hub, a web portal developed jointly by Statistics Canada and Transport Canada, provides Canadians with online access to comprehensive statistics and measures on the country's transportation sector.
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