On Monday, the Vancouver Sunreported a slight dip in the number of motor vehicles registered in the city of Vancouver and in neighboring, transit-friendly New Westminster, along with much slower growth in the vehicle fleet across the metropolitan area.

In the city of Vancouver, where the population has stabilized in recent years despite a construction boom, the number of registered vehicles dropped by about 1,500 to 304,981, according to [Insurance Corporation of BC] statistics for the period ending Jan. 31 this year. The number had grown by 50,000 between 1994 and 2003.

Small decreases were also recorded in New Westminster (down 280) and White Rock (down about 180).

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  • For the Greater Vancouver region, which includes growing populations in Port Coquitlam, Surrey and other municipalities, the number of vehicles rose by only about 17,000, to 1.28 million, after the region had gained about 300,000 vehicles since 1994.

    Counts of vehicles are far less reliable than you might expect, so don’t pop any corks yet. But other evidence corroborates the idea that Vancouverites are stepping away from their cars.

    . . . ridership across Greater Vancouver on buses, SeaBuses and the SkyTrain rose by 9.5 per cent in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year, and was 24.6 per cent higher than 2002.

    Numbers rose by 11.1 per cent for buses, 5.4 per cent for the SkyTrain, 5.5 per cent for SeaBuses, and six per cent for the West Coast Express. Three times more people used buses (with 100.9 million boardings) than SkyTrains (with 32.4 million).

    Bicycling and walking are also up, apparently. On Vancouver’s downtown peninsula, some 28 percent of residents walk to work.

    The biggest single leap in transit use in Vancouver came when the universities-UBC and Simon Fraser—launched sweeping bus-pass programs, emulating other Cascadian universities such as the University of Washington. Vancouver’s U Pass program claims to have raised bus ridership 11 percent all by itself.

    (Thanks to Gordon Price’s Price Tags (choose issue 44 as soon as it’s posted) for the Sun article, which I missed!)