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Skytrain Mark II-300.jpg
Owner TransLink
Locale Vancouver, British Columbia
Transit type Rapid transit
Number of lines 3 operational, 1 planned
Number of stations 47 (List of stations)
Daily ridership 364,000 (2009)[1][2][3]
Began operation December 11, 1985
Operator(s) British Columbia Rapid Transit Company
(Expo and Millennium Line)
Protrans BC (Canada Line)
Number of vehicles 298
System length 68.7 km (42.7 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) (standard gauge)
Electrification Third rail
(Linear induction or Electric motor)
Average speed 45 km/h (28 mph)
Top speed 90 km/h (56 mph) (Expo and Millennium Lines)
80 km/h (50 mph) (Canada Line)

The SkyTrain is an urban rapid transit system in Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It uses fully automated trains running mostly on elevated tracks (hence the name).

SkyTrain's 68.7 km (42.7 mi) of track make it the longest automated rapid transit system in the world[4] and the longest rapid transit system in Canada. It also uses the longest mass transit-only bridge, the SkyBridge, to cross the Fraser River.[5] There are 47 stations in the system, which carries an average of 271,000 passengers per day (2007) on the two original lines, and 93,000 passengers per day (2009) on the new Canada Line.[6] The Expo Line was built in time for the Expo 86 World's Fair. The Millennium Line opened in 2002, and was extended by one station in 2006. The Canada Line opened in 2009 in advance of the 2010 Winter Olympics.[7]

The Expo Line and Millennium Line are operated by British Columbia Rapid Transit Company under contract from TransLink (originally BC Transit), a regional government transportation agency. It uses a proof-of-payment fare system shared with local bus services, and is policed by the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service. SkyTrain Attendants (STAs) are present to provide first aid, directions and customer service, inspect fares, monitor train faults, and operate the trains manually if necessary. The Canada Line is operated on the same principles by the private concessionaire ProTrans BC, and is an integrated part of the regional transport system.

Several expansions to the SkyTrain network have been announced. The Evergreen Line, which will run from Lougheed Town Centre to Coquitlam Town Centre, is in the planning stage, with design to occur in 2010 and construction to be complete in 2014. TransLink has also released a ten-year outlook[8] outlining a Broadway Line and further expansion of the Expo Line into Surrey. The Broadway Line, although not confirmed, is said to extend from the Millennium Line at VCC–Clark Station and end at the University of British Columbia in the University Endowment Lands, tunneling underneath Broadway most of the way.



A Mark II train travelling along the Expo Line between Commercial–Broadway Station and Main Street – Science World Station.
Line Opening Year Length (km) Stations Termini Frequency (minutes) Travel Time
Peak Off-Peak
Expo Line 1985 28.9 20 Waterfront King George 2.7 6–8 39 min
Millennium Line* 2002 20.3 13 Waterfront VCC–Clark 5.4 6–8 27 min
Canada Line 2009 19.2 16 Waterfront Richmond–Brighouse
3.8** 3.8-10** 25 min/26 min
* Millennium Line is interlined with Expo Line for an additional 15 stations (21 km) from Columbia to Waterfront, for a total travel time of 57 minutes
** Canada Line service is half as frequent at stations south/west of Bridgeport Station, as trains alternate between the two termini

The Expo Line connects Waterfront Station in Vancouver to King George Station in Surrey, principally along a route established by the Westminster and Vancouver Tramway Company as an interurban line in 1890.[9] It was built in 1985 in time for Expo 86 and has 20 stations. It was given its name only after the Millennium Line was built. It ran only as far as New Westminster Station until 1989, when it was extended to Columbia Station, and in 1990, once the Skybridge was finished, it continued across the Fraser River to Scott Road. In 1994 the terminus of Expo line became King George Station in Central Surrey. It was built on a budget of $854 million (1986 dollars).[10]

The Millennium Line shares tracks with the Expo Line from Waterfront Station to Columbia Station in New Westminster, then continues along its own route through North Burnaby and East Vancouver, ending at Vancouver Community College (VCC–Clark Station) in Vancouver. It was built on a $1.2 billion budget and the final extension from Commercial Drive Station to VCC–Clark Station was opened on January 6, 2006).[11] The Millennium Line has 13 stations that are not shared with the Expo Line. Unlike the Expo Line, the Millennium Line's stations were designed by British Columbia's top architects, resulting in dramatically different stations from those on the Expo Line.[11] In 2004, Busby and Associates Architects, designers of the Brentwood Town Centre Station in Burnaby, were honoured for their work with a Governor General's Medal in Architecture.[12]

The Canada Line begins at the Waterfront Station hub, then continues south to the City of Richmond and Sea Island. From Bridgeport Station, the Canada Line splits into two branches, one heading west to the YVR–Airport Station and the other continuing south to the Richmond–Brighouse Station. Opened on August 17, 2009, the Canada Line added 15 stations and 19.2 km (11.9 mi) to the existing SkyTrain system. Waterfront Station is the only station directly where the Canada Line connects with the Expo Line and Millennium Line, however, Vancouver City Centre Station is within a three-minute walk from Granville Station, making it an unofficial transfer to the Expo Line and Millennium Line. The Canada Line cost $1.9 billion, financed by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia, TransLink, and InTransitBC.[13] The Canada Line's trains are fully automated, but are of a different design than the existing lines' Bombardier-built fleet, and use conventional electric motors rather than Bombardier's linear induction technology.

The SkyTrain network, including connecting SeaBus and West Coast Express services


Fare class One zone Two zones Three zones Airport AddFare
Adult $2.50 $3.75 $5.00 +$2.50
Concession $1.75 $2.50 $3.50 +$2.50
A ticket vending machine (right), next to a FareSaver validator.
Canada and Millennium Line stations are designed for future fare gates; Expo Line will be retrofit.
Real-time information is provided on every station platform on the Canada Line
Bus advertisement for the SCBCTAPS police

Although it is considered an intermediate-capacity rapid transit system, SkyTrain provides very high-frequency service, with automated trains arriving every 3–5 minutes during peak hours on each line. Trains operate between approximately 5:00 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. on weekdays, with reduced hours on weekends on Expo and Millennium lines. It has longer hours of service during special events, such as the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and marathons.[14]



Greater Vancouver is divided into three zones, with fares varying depending on how many zone boundaries are crossed during one trip. Customers may purchase fares by using cash, debit cards or credit cards at the mezzanine level of each station from self-serve ticket vending machines. There is a variety of transit passes available, such as a pre-paid FareSaver ticket, daily DayPass, monthly FareCard, annual EmployerPass, post-secondary student U-Pass, and other specialized passes. Canadian National Institute for the Blind identification cards are accepted without the need to be read by the fare box. One-time fares are valid for 90 minutes on any mode of transportation with any number of transfers, including all SkyTrain lines, bus and SeaBus routes. Concession fares are available for children (6–13), secondary school students, and the elderly.[15]

SkyTrain's fare system is a proof-of-payment system; there are no turnstiles at the entrances to train platforms. Fares are enforced by random sweeps – usually by police or transit security but occasionally by SkyTrain attendants – through trains and stations, or at special events such as after BC Lions or Vancouver Canucks games. The fine for failure to show proof of payment, or fare evasion, ticket reselling or other scams, is $173.[16][17]

Fares in the Airport Zone

Travel on the Canada Line is free between the three Sea Island stations near the airport: Templeton, Sea Island Centre, and YVR-Airport. Cash fares purchased at ticket machines at these three stations (to depart Sea Island) include an AddFare of $5.00 on top of the normal fare. There is no additional fare for anyone travelling towards the airport. The AddFare only applies to cash fares purchased on Sea Island; it does not apply to cash fares purchased outside of Sea Island, pre-paid FareSaver tickets, or transit passes.[18] FareSavers can be purchased from retailers within the airport to avoid the surcharge. The AddFare is effective from January 18, 2010.[19]


The cost of operating SkyTrain in 2008, with an estimated 73.5 million boardings, was $82,684,000.[20] [21] To cover this, TransLink draws mostly from transit fare and advertising ($359,911,000 in 2008) and tax ($262,298,000 from fuel taxes and $297,812,000 from property taxes in 2008), though it must also pay for bus service, certain roads and bridges, and other infrastructure and services.[20] The capital costs of building the system are shared with other government agencies. Capital expenses were $216,232,000[20] in 2008. For example, the cost of building the Canada Line was shared between TransLink ($335,000,000 or 22%), the federal government (29%), the province (28%), the airport authority (19%), and the City of Vancouver (2%).[22] While TransLink has run surpluses for operating costs since 2001,[23][24], it incurs debt to cover these capital costs. As a whole, TransLink has $1.1 billion in long term debt, as of 2006, of which $508 million was downloaded from the province during the 1999 transfer of responsibility for SkyTrain.[23][25] As the province retained ownership of the causeway, bridge, and certain services, it retained a portion of SkyTrain's debt as well.[26]


Law enforcement services are provided by the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police Service, formerly Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police Service (GVTAPS). They replaced the old TransLink Special Provincial Constables, who had limited authority. On December 4, 2005, GVTAPS officers became the first and only transit police force in Canada having full police powers and carrying firearms. They may arrest people for outstanding warrants, enforce drug laws, enforce the criminal code beyond TransLink property, and deal with offences that begin off TransLink property and make their way onto it. They issue tickets for fare evasion and other infractions on SkyTrain, transit buses, SeaBus, and West Coast Express.[27]

Transit Security Officers also patrol SkyTrain but they concentrate their efforts mostly on the bus system.

SkyTrain attendants provide customer service and first aid, troubleshoot train and station operations, and perform fare inspections alongside the police force.[28] Public controversy was sparked in March 2005 when it was announced that transit police would carry guns. Then-Solicitor General of British Columbia John Les defended the move, saying that it was necessary to enhance SkyTrain security.[29] Some critics, such as the Bus Riders Union, claim that the police frighten youth and ethnic minorities during fare checks, though the union has not tracked any statistics.[30]

Over the years, violence and other criminal activities have been major concerns, but TransLink insists the system is safe.[31][32] Then-Inspector Kash Heed of the Vancouver Police Department says that little crime takes place in the stations themselves. However, criminal activity becomes more visible 400–700 metres (1,000–2,000 ft) outside them.[33]

Stations are monitored with closed-circuit television cameras, allowing SkyTrain operators to monitor any criminal activity[citation needed]. Designated wait areas have enhanced lighting, waiting benches, and emergency telephones. Trains have yellow strips above each window which, when pressed, silently alert operators of a security hazard. On-board speaker phones provide two-way communication with passengers and control operators.[34]

Recently, the entire surveillance system was upgraded from analogue two-hour tape recording to digital technology, which allows police to retrieve previous footage for up to seven days.[35]

Fare gates

Installing turnstiles to prevent fare evasion has been considered, but was previously rejected because of the expense of implementing, maintaining, and enforcing them, which would exceed the losses prevented.[36] TransLink estimates it loses $4 million (5% of its revenue) annually from fare evasion on the SkyTrain.[37] The Canada Line opened in 2009 without fare gates, despite previously stated intentions to include them. The Canada Line and Millennium Line stations were specifically designed to allow for future fare gates.[38]

The 2008 Provincial Transit Plan outlined several SkyTrain system upgrades. The plan will eliminate the proof-of-payment system in favour of a gated-ticket system.[39] According to Ministry of Transportation head Kevin Falcon the gated-ticket system would be implemented by a private company by 2010.[40] In April 2009 it was announced that the provincial and federal governments would spend $100 million to put the gates in place by the end of 2010. However, in August 2009 a Translink spokesman revealed that the gates will not arrive before 2012, and that some form of smart card system will be implemented at the same time.[41]


A plaque commemorating the inauguration of the SkyTrain.

There had been plans as early as the 1950s to build a monorail system, with modernist architect Wells Coates pencilled in to design it; that project was abandoned.[citation needed] The lack of a rapid transit system was said to be the cause of traffic problems in the 1970s, and the municipal government could not fund the construction of such a system.[42] During the same period, Urban Transportation Development Corporation, then an Ontario crown corporation, was developing a new type of rapid transit officially known as "Intermediate Capacity Transit System".[43] In 1980 the need for rapid transit was great, and Ontario needed buyers for its new technology. "Advanced Rapid Transit" was selected to be built in Vancouver to showcase the Ontario project at Expo 86. Construction was funded by the provincial and federal government.[44] The system was ideal for a long-term transit solution primarily because labour costs would be low.[45] Construction of the original line proceeded on March 1, 1982 under the Social Credit government of Bill Bennett,[46][47] who inaugurated the system at Waterfront Station. SkyTrain was conceived as a legacy project of Expo 86 and the first line was finished in 1985 in time to showcase the fair's theme: "Transportation and Communication: World in Motion - World in Touch".[48] SkyTrain began operating on December 11, 1985 and began carrying passengers in January, 1986.[49] [50]

Originally SkyTrain terminated at New Westminster Station until 1990; construction began on an extension in 1989 including the SkyBridge, Columbia Station and Scott Road Station, expanding service to Surrey.[51] The line was expanded yet again in 1994 with the opening of the Gateway, Surrey Central, and King George stations. SkyTrain is part of the 1996 Greater Vancouver Regional District's (GVRD) Livable Region Strategic Plan, which discusses strategies to deal with the anticipated increase of population in the near future. Some of these include methods of increasing transportation choices and much higher transit use.[52]

In 1997 negotiations began on transferring responsibility for SkyTrain from the province to the local governments at the GVRD after different visions emerged on how to cope with the growing region and expansion line.[53] In 1999, with the adoption of the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Act (now South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act), responsibility for SkyTrain, and the ownership of SkyTrain's operating company British Columbia Rapid Transit Company Ltd., were transferred from BC Transit to the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority, branded as TransLink.[54][55] As part of the deal, they agreed on a limited growth plan with the province taking responsibility for expansion under the Crown corporation Rapid Transit Project 2000 Ltd. (RTP 2000) and a cost-sharing scheme.

Expansion options for the rapidly growing region that was outstripping TransLink's capacity and ability to cope, included streetcars, rapid buses, and light rapid transit, which were passed over in favour of new SkyTrain lines.[56] RTP 2000 proposed a two-phase expansion: a $1.2 billion Millennium Line from New Westminster to the Vancouver Community College via Lougheed Town Centre in Phase I and a $730 million Coquitlam line from Lougheed Mall to Coquitlam Centre via Port Moody and a Western Line from Vancouver Community College to Granville Street via the Broadway Corridor, both to be completed before 2006, in Phase II.[53]

A MK I train passing by on the Millennium Line, between VCC–Clark Station and Commercial–Broadway Station.

The first section of the Millennium Line opened in 2002, with Braid and Sapperton stations. Most of the remaining portion began operating later that year, serving North Burnaby and East Vancouver. Critics of the project dubbed it the "SkyTrain to Nowhere", claiming that the route of the new line was based on political concerns, not the needs of commuters.[57] An illustration of this complaint is that the end of the Millennium Line is in a vacant field, a site that was chosen because it was supposed to be the location for a new high-tech development and is a few hundred metres from the head office of QLT Inc. but additional development has been slow to get off the ground.[58][59] Vancouver Community College is currently building its north campus close to the station. That station, VCC-Clark near Clark Drive and Broadway, did not open until 2006 because of difficulty in negotiating the right-of-way from BNSF, but it is still five kilometres short of the original proposed Phase II terminus at Granville Street.[60] The second Phase II segment is currently being planned, the line being called the Evergreen Line, and is scheduled to start operations by 2014. Phase I of the Millennium Line was completed $50 million under budget.[61]

Rapid transit from Vancouver to Richmond had been studied as early as 1990.[62] As the provincial government changed and regional priorities were developed, the Millennium Line was given priority and built first. By 1998 plans for a line to Richmond resurfaced including a spur to the Vancouver International Airport, in part to strengthen the planned bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics.[63]. As funding was provided from two levels of government and the airport authority[64][65], Translink narrowly approved the new line in 2004 after having twice voted to cancel it.[66] The line was named the Canada Line to acknowledge the federal government's contribution.[67] The line was built as a public-private partnership, with the winning bidder, led by SNC-Lavalin (now known as ProTransBC), contributing funds and operating it for 35 years. A minimum ridership is guaranteed by Translink.[68] The Canada Line opened on August 17, 2009, fifteen weeks ahead of schedule and on budget, and saw an average of 82,500 passengers per day in its first six weeks, putting it well on track to reach its ridership target of 100,000 per day within two years.[3] The Canada Line is operationally independent from the Expo and Millennium lines, and uses rolling stock that is incompatible with the other lines, but the Canada Line is still part of the SkyTrain network.[69][70]


A first generation Mark II SkyTrain at Rupert Station, Millennium Line

SkyTrain has had a significant impact on the development of areas in which stations are located, and has helped to shape urban density in Metro Vancouver. Between 1991 and 2001, the population within 500 metres of SkyTrain increased by 37% compared to the regional average of 24%.[70] Since SkyTrain began, the overall population of the service area rose from 400,000 to 1.3 million people.[71] According to BC Transit's document SkyTrain: A catalyst for development, more than $5 billion of private money had been invested within a 10–15 minute walking distance of the SkyTrain and SeaBus. The report claimed that the two modes of transportation were the driving force of the investment, though it did not disaggregate the general growth in that area.[72]

According to Graham R. Crampton's research paper, SkyTrain and San Diego's trolley system were among the most successful transit systems in the three arenas: stimulation of growth in city centres; stimulation of growth in declining areas; and change in the pattern of urban development. Vancouver was particularly impressive, according to E. Babalik's paper:[73]

The most effective system in terms of shaping urban growth is SkyTrain. The corridor that SkyTrain runs through became the main development axis of Vancouver with a notably denser urban form after the opening of SkyTrain. Development densities along SkyTrain route have changed especially as a result of the rezoning plans of the municipalities. These plans increased the densities at station areas, and encouraged office and retail centres at stations. Some of the SkyTrain stations became the ‘new town centres’ as proposed in the metropolitan development plan.

Larry Ward, former president and CEO of British Columbia Rapid Transit Corporation, told Goliath that the public reaction of the Millennium Line was positive; customers enjoy the spaciousness of the Mark II cars, the brighter station colours, and the general ambiance.[61] When Broadway Station opened in 1985, it caused disruption to business south of the station. In an effort to repair the damage done, the Hub was created in 2003 when the adjacent Commercial Drive Station opened. The Hub is a strip of retail businesses situated within Commercial Drive Station where Expo Line passengers transfer to the Millennium Line and vice versa. Close to 50,000 people pass through the intersection every business day.[74]

The Canada Line has been credited with spurring transit-oriented development in Richmond, where 40,000 residents live within 400 m of the line.[75] The City of Richmond plans to add 80,000 more residents to its city centre by 2031, concentrated in five high-density neighbourhoods surrounding the city's Canada Line stations.[76] The City of Vancouver has been slower to adopt a growth strategy; its Cambie Corridor Planning Program, which will be completed by 2011, intends to produce a coordinated strategy for the entire corridor, as well as policies for what the city calls "strategic sites".[77]


A Canada Line train at Waterfront Station in Downtown Vancouver.

A survey in 1998 conducted by Canadian Facts for the Rapid Transit system showed that:

  • 61% of residents in Greater Vancouver were "more likely" to support the construction of SkyTrain rather than ground-level Light Rail Transit;
  • 71% said that "even though SkyTrain is more expensive to build, it is better than ground LRT";
  • 69% felt that SkyTrain would have the largest impact on traffic reduction followed by either transit links (54%) rapid buses/dedicated lanes such as the ones used for the B-Line bus routes (40%) and less expensive LRT lines (32%);
  • 51% said the terminus should have been at UBC, followed by Granville Street (24%) and Broadway/Commercial Station (17%);
  • 63% of respondents said that SkyTrain is the best mode of transportation, followed by the bus system (24%), the West Coast Express (3%) and the SeaBus (1%);

The survey was released to the public eight days after former premier Glen Clark stated his preference was SkyTrain.[78] Deming Smith of the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation believed that the use of Bombardier's technology was politically charged; that construction workers would vote for Glen Clark's party, the New Democratic Party of British Columbia, for providing them with employment.[79]

The system has had debt problems in 1998. The debt servicing of SkyTrain was three and a half times the actual operating budget whereas the debt servicing of buses was only one-seventh the operating budget.[80] During the construction of the Surrey extension, the Vancouver Regional Transit Commission, a division of BC Transit, was $30 million in debt. The provincial government agreed to cover the debt in 1991 for three years.[81]

In May 2001, protesters halted construction of the Millennium Line in an attempt to save the trees and vegetation within the Grandview Cut. TransLink scrapped the original plan of building a tunnel in favour of a guideway.[82] The bridge over the Cut was consequently out of service from April to December 2001. It disrupted bus service and several local businesses, including Canada Post, a hairdressing school and a restaurant, which experienced a $5000-per-month loss of revenue. The owner appealed to city hall and the Millennium Line Rapid Transit Project Office for compensation, and complained to both then Premier Ujjal Dosanjh and deputy premier Joy MacPhail. Dosanjh sent her a polite, pre-election letter which said he would pass her concerns on to Economic Development Minister Mike Farnworth. MacPhail declined her pleas for compensation and said the Nanaimo Bridge construction project was a "necessary evil".[83]

Construction of the Canada Line raised concerns over the disruption of local business near Yaletown, Cambie Street, and No. 3 Road in Richmond. InTransitBC responded by launching an advertising campaign promoting local business on the line.[84] Residents of Cambie Street opposed the building of the Canada Line on their street and advocated for the line to be built down the Arbutus Corridor instead, which is zoned for rail transit. Officials said that Cambie was preferred because the line is shorter, and covers more important and trafficked destinations that can generate more revenue, like Vancouver General Hospital, Vancouver City Hall, Oakridge Centre, and Langara College.[85] Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was a strong supporter of Cambie Street merchants and spoke regularly about hardships from the Canada Line construction.[86] He called the handling of the rail line construction an "injustice."[87] On March 23, 2009 Robertson testified in a lawsuit brought by a Cambie Street merchant in the B.C. Supreme Court regarding damage to her business from the construction.[86] The merchant was awarded $600,000 by the court, when it ruled that there was insufficient action to mitigate the effects of Canada Line construction on Cambie Street merchants.[88] On the Canada Line opening day of August 17, 2009 Robertson said Greater Vancouver needed more rapid transit but the Canada Line was a "great start" and that he was a "Johnny-come-lately" to the project.[89]


The Expo and Millennium lines follow a common route between Waterfront Station in Downtown Vancouver and Columbia Station in New Westminster, serving the cities of Vancouver, Burnaby, and New Westminster. From Columbia, Expo Line trains continue through Surrey to King George Station; Millennium Line trains loop back through New Westminster, Burnaby, and Vancouver to VCC–Clark Station. The Canada Line travels southward from Waterfront Station in Downtown Vancouver to Richmond, where the track splits at Bridgeport Station; trains alternate between a southern branch ending at Richmond–Brighouse Station and a western branch ending at Vancouver International Airport. Although most of the system is elevated, SkyTrain runs at or below grade through Downtown Vancouver, for half of the Canada Line's length, and for short stretches in Burnaby and New Westminster.

SkyTrain uses Thales's SelTrac signalling technology to run trains automatically.[90] Its use has never led to accidents. The SkyTrain was one of the first fully automated rapid-transit systems in the world, and remains the longest today.[91] The Expo Line and Millennium Line have punctuality record of over 96%, and passenger interference with train doors is one of the principal causes of delays.[92] There have been no derailments or collisions in the system's history.[93]

All stations have elevators. On September 22, 2006, a new entrance to Granville Station was opened, making this previously inaccessible station accessible for disabled patrons, who previously had to board trains at either the Burrard or Stadium-Chinatown stations.[94]

SkyTrain uses the world's longest bridge dedicated to transit services. Skybridge crosses the Fraser River between New Westminster and Surrey. It is a 616 m (2,021 ft) long cable-stayed bridge,[95] with 123 m (404 ft) tall towers. Two additional transit-only bridges, the North Arm Bridge and the Middle Arm Bridge, were built for the Canada Line. The North Arm Bridge is an extradosed bridge with a total length of 562 m (1844 ft), with shorter 47 m (154 ft) towers necessitated by its proximity to the Vancouver International Airport. The North Arm Bridge also has a pedestrian/bicycle deck connecting the bicycle networks of Vancouver and Richmond.[96] The Middle Arm Bridge is a shorter box girder bridge.

TransLink upgraded all Expo Line platform station edges to match those on the Millennium Line shortly after it was completed. The new, wider edges are brighter and have been tiled in hopes of providing a safer environment for the visually impaired. The Canada Line also uses this safety feature in its stations.[97]

The distinctive chime used in the SkyTrain system was recorded in 1984/85 at Little Mountain Sound Studios in Vancouver.[98] The automated train announcements were voiced by Laureen Regan.[99]

Rolling stock

The SkyTrain network's schematic diagram.
Summary of SkyTrain Fleet
Builder Model Year Acquired Fleet size
Urban Transportation Development Corporation ICTS Mark I 1984–1986 114 cars
Urban Transportation Development Corporation ICTS Mark I 1991 16 cars
Urban Transportation Development Corporation ICTS Mark I 1994 20 cars
Bombardier Transportation ART Mark II 2002 60 cars
Bombardier Transportation ART Mark II 2009 34 cars
Bombardier Transportation ART Mark II 2010 14 cars
Hyundai Rotem EMU 2009 40 cars
Standard Train Configuration
Model Seats/car Capacity/car Cars/train Length/train Capacity/train
ICTS Mark I 36 80 4 or 6 cars 48 or 72 m 320 or 480
ART Mark II (2002) 41 130 2 or 4 cars 34 or 68 m 260 or 520
ART Mark II (2009/2010) 33 145 2 or 4 cars 34 or 68 m 290 or 580
Hyundai Rotem EMU 44 200 2 cars 42 m 400

Expo Line and Millennium Line

The Expo Line and Millennium Line use Bombardier's Advanced Rapid Transit (ART) technology, a system of automated trains driven by linear induction motors, formerly known as Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS). These trains reach speeds of 90 km/h (56 mph);[100] when including wait times at stops, the end-to-end average speed is 45 km/h (28 mph), three times faster than a bus and almost twice as fast as a B-Line express bus.[101]

ICTS Mark I fleet
The interior of an older Mark I train.

The initial fleet consisted of 12-metre (40 ft) lightweight Mark I ICTS cars from Urban Transportation Development Corporation, similar to the ones used in Toronto's Scarborough RT and the Detroit People Mover.[90] Mark I vehicles are composed of mated pairs and normally run as four-car trains, but can be run in two-, four-, or six-car configuration. The maximum based on station platform lengths is a six-car configuration, totaling 72 metres. The SkyTrain fleet currently includes 150 Mark I trains.[102] One can easily recognize these trains as they have side facing seats, feature a red/white/blue interior, and have two doors per car.

Each Mark I car has 36 seats, and a total capacity of 80 passengers.[103] Mark I trains have spaces dedicated for wheelchair users, bicycles, and strollers.

The Mark I ICTS cars which arrived between 1983 and 1986 for the opening of the Expo line in 1985 each featured two end-doors; one door on both the front and back of each car. The back side of each car had sections painted in black. These trains were different from the test train couple used during the ICTS testing in 1982. There is a total of 150 Mark I cars; 114 Mark I cars from 1984–1986, which have run an average of more than 3.2 million kilometres apiece; 16 Mark I cars from 1991 for the Scott Road extension; 20 Mark I cars from 1994 for the King George extension.

In 1991, additional Mark I ICTS cars were purchased. These slightly newer cars featured only one end door on the back side of each car, and the back side was not coloured black. In the front of each car, there were no end doors; instead, the front window was slightly enlarged and was equipped with a windshield wiper. Trains include a fold-down seat near the end doors that permit a rider a view of the tracks should they be riding in an end car. This seat is popular with rail enthusiasts.

Until 1990, the ICTS Mark I cars were lined with blue carpeting rather than the current grey wax flooring; the carpets did not last long because they were difficult to maintain. As well, slight changes in paint used over the years have changed the front step on the trains from white to red, and now there is an entirely new TransLink colour scheme. To adhere to BC Transit's original colour scheme, seating likewise alternated between red and blue wool, and later vinyl fabric. However, because of problems with maintaining vandalized red seats, a pure blue vinyl fabric scheme was eventually adopted throughout.

Before the Expo Line was extended past Scott Road Station, trains ran almost exclusively in two-car pairs except during high peak hours and major events such as Expo 86, when four-car trains were used. Increased ridership following the phase III extension of the Expo Line to King George changed train configurations to an increased usage of four-car units, with two-car units being used during early morning and late evening low passenger volumes. Six-car configurations were introduced for special events and usage under BC Transit's snow-plan operations. Following the opening of the Millennium Line, two-car pairs ceased revenue service due to an incapacity to handle Vancouver's rapidly growing population and expanding ridership. Two-car "single/married" pairs now only occur when train sets must be separated because of technical complications, during track testing, or when trains undergo servicing and repair work at the Edmonds Operations Yard in Burnaby. Following the expansion of the fleet of Mark II cars in 2010, a mixture of four-car and six-car Mark I train configurations are now used in normal revenue service.

Bombardier Mark II train fleet
The Mark II trains have more spacious interiors, which allow them to carry more riders in trains of the same size.

When the Millennium Line was built, TransLink ordered new-generation Mark II ART trains from Bombardier Transportation, which were manufactured in a $15 million Burnaby factory.[104] Similar trains are used in Kuala Lumpur's Kelana Jaya Line, New York's JFK AirTrain and the new Beijing Airport Express. These trains are usually seen in two-car and four-car configurations. Each pair of cars is permanently joined together in a two-car trainset, or 'married pair', with a length of 33.4 metres. Mark II trains have a streamlined front and rear, an articulated joint allowing passengers to walk the length of a married pair, white/grey/blue interior, and three doors per car.

Like the Mark I trains, the Mark II vehicles are fully accessible, with dedicated spaces for wheelchair users, strollers, and bicycles.

Second generation Mark II trains have a row of seats removed to allow for greater capacity than first generation Mark IIs.

The first generation of Mark II vehicles each have 41 seats and a capacity of 130 passengers, although trains have carried up to 150 under crush load.[103] The second generation Mark II vehicles have fewer seats and wider aisles, giving more space for standees, wheelchairs, strollers, and bicycles; they have 33 seats and a total capacity of 145 passengers. The second generation Mark II trains also feature interactive LED maps, more handle bars and video cameras [105]

There is a total 60 Mark II cars from 2002 for the Millennium Line and ridership growth on the Expo Line.[106] In November, 2006, Bombardier won a contract to supply a further 34 ART Mark II cars with a bid of $113 million. These cars are painted in the new TransLink livery appearing on recent buses, and implement features that previous trains do not have, such as light-up station maps, door indicator lights, and destination boards in the front and back windows of the train. These trains are being manufactured and assembled in Sahagun, Mexico, and Thunder Bay, Ontario.[107] An additional 14 ART Mark II cars have been ordered for delivery in early 2010.[108] The first of these trains entered regular service on July 3, 2009. When delivery is complete (which occurred by the end of December 2009) , all Mark II trains will consist of four cars (i.e. two married pairs) with a length of almost 70 metres, which approaches the maximum capacity of Expo and Millenium Line stations whose platforms are 80 metres in length. Currently all Mark II train cars are "end cars" and operated as married pairs, but Translink has stated that it is desirable to add 3-car units to the fleet to optimize capacity.[109]

Canada Line train fleet

Canada Line trains are even wider than Mark II trains, with spaces assigned for bicycles and luggage.

The Canada Line uses a separate fleet of trains, which are powered by conventional electric motors instead of Linear Induction Motor (LIM) technology, and are therefore incompatible with both Expo and Millennium Lines. There are a total of 20 trains, which were built by Hyundai Rotem in Korea, operate as two-carriage articulated units, and can reach a speed of 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph).[110] They are maintained at a yard next to Bridgeport Station in Richmond.

Canada Line cars are 3 metres in width and 20 metres in length, both wider and longer than the Mark I and Mark II trains. Each 2-car train has seating for 88 and a normal capacity of 334 passengers at 4 passengers/m², with crush load capacity of 400. Therefore a 2-car Canada Line train has more capacity than a 4-car Mark I train. In addition, the Canada Line trains feature large, dedicated spaces for wheelchair users, bicycles, and strollers, and sufficient space between seats for luggage. The new trains have large LED displays on both ends of the train, displaying the next station and the terminus station, or system announcements.

Unlike Mark II trains, Canada Line trains will not be operated as longer 4 or 6-car trains. Each Canada Line train can be expanded in future to three cars in length, by inserting a middle car at the articulated joint between the two end cars. With the addition of the third car, each Canada Line train will have similar capacity to a 4-car Mark II train or a 6-car Mark I train. The Canada Line's station platforms are expandable to 50 m in length to accommodate these future three-car trains; the five busiest stations are already at 50 metres. Beyond this, capacity increases will require the addition of more trains, rather than increasing the length of each train. The capacity of the line can be increased by 50% through an increase in frequency and another 50% through the use of 3-car trains.[111] The Canada Line has a designed future capacity of 15,000 pphpd when operating three-car trains at 120-second headways, which is nearly three times its current capacity.[112]

Future expansion

The provincial government of British Columbia is solely responsible for SkyTrain infrastructure expansion.[39] As of 2009, the provincial government of British Columbia has announced the following future expansions to the SkyTrain network:

Evergreen Line (2014)

Douglas College is the projected northbound terminus for the Evergreen Line.
Project Name Line Date Section Stations Length
Evergreen Line Evergreen 2014 Lougheed Town Centre to Douglas College 6 11 km

The Evergreen Line (previously known as the PMC Line [Port Moody-Coquitlam] or Northeast Sector Line) is a Phase II segment of the Millennium Line. It was originally scheduled to be completed in 2009, but was delayed to 2014 because of budget concerns.[113] The line will connect Lougheed Town Centre Station on the Millennium Line in Burnaby to Coquitlam City Centre. As the line was originally conceived of as Phase II of the SkyTrain Millennium Line, a third platform was built at Lougheed Town Centre station. A secondary round of planning resulted in a change in the technology to a light-rail trainway. The latest planning review resulted in an announcement on February 1, 2008 that the Provincial government's preferred system would be Automated Light Rail, or SkyTrain-like technology. The expected cost is $1.4 billion.[114] The goal of this latest change is to boost projected ridership by adding capacity and speed, and by integrating the system with the Millennium line to reduce the number of times users need to change systems. Given the reference to integration, it is highly likely the Evergreen Line will be Bombardier's ALRT system because of the proprietary technology on the existing Millennium Line.

While the BC government's push for ALRT puts the current plan into question, as a tramway, the Evergreen Line would connect with the existing Millennium line, running from Lougheed Station elevated along the North and Clarke Roads, then through a tunnel under Burnaby Mountain, through Port Moody, and towards Coquitlam Centre where it would run at grade along the Canadian Pacific rail line. It would then connect with the Coquitlam West Coast Express commuter rail station. Elevated again, it would turn northward along Pinetree Way and end near Douglas College.[115]

UBC Line/Millennium Line extension (2020)

UBC is the projected westbound terminus for the Millennium Line in 2020.
Project Name Line Date Section Stations Length
UBC Extension Millennium 2020 VCC-Clark to UBC TBD 12.6 km

Early proposals planned to extend SkyTrain west along the Broadway corridor, but stopped well short of UBC because of the cost, estimated at approximately $700 million (1999).[116] However, the Provincial Transit Plan, released in February 2008, includes funding for the entire Broadway corridor to UBC. The line would replace the region's busiest bus routes where over 100,000 trips are already made on a daily basis. The line would also include an interchange with the Canada Line at Cambie Street. The new line is estimated to cost $2.8 billion and to be completed by 2020.[39]

Statements by government suggest that the UBC line will be an extension of the Millennium Line from VCC-Clark station.[citation needed] This scenario could mean that commuters from Coquitlam to UBC would not need to change trains at all during their commute as Evergreen Line trains would continue on to UBC from Lougheed. Also, commuters from the Evergreen and Millennium Lines east of Vancouver would have a secondary route to downtown by changing to the Canada Line instead of the Expo Line.

Expo Line extension (2020)

Project Name Line(s) Date Section Stations Length
Fleetwood Extension Expo 2020 King George to Fleetwood Town Centre TBD 6 km
King George Extension Expo 2030 King George to 64th Avenue TBD 7 km
Langley Extension Expo 2030 Fleetwood Town Centre to Langley Centre TBD 7 km

The recent Provincial Transit Plan included a six-kilometre extension of the Expo line from King George Station in Surrey east to Guildford, then along 152 Street to the Fraser Highway and southeast as far as 168 Street.[117] It also included the lengthening of all Expo Line station platforms. Current platforms can fit six-car Mark I trains and four-car Mark II trains. The extended platforms will accommodate eight-car Mark I trains and six-car Mark II trains, increasing the Expo Line's capacity. The total cost is expected to be $3.1 billion.[39] The Expo SkyTrain line will be further extended along the Fraser Highway to Langley Centre in Langley, and a second branch extended south along King George Highway to 64th Avenue, by 2030.[117]

The projected map of the rapid transit network in 2020.

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