Puget Sound Transportation Projects
Vancouver, BC SkyTrain
Originally built for Vancouver BC's Expo 86, the Skytrain system now serves many cities in the Lower Mainland. The original line was extended to Surrey in the late 1980’s, another extension around the Northside of the city was opened in 2000 and an extension to the Airport and Richmond opened in 2009, just in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Future extensions could take the line to Port Coquitlam and further West.
The system is 100% grade separated. Most of the right of way is in the air on guideways - hence the name "Skytrain". In downtown the system is underground and in a couple places it is at ground level. It is also 100% automated, although trains can be manually controlled. These two things mean that the trains are highly reliable and run constantly-up to a train every 90 seconds during rush hours. In the times I have ridden it I have rarely ever had to wait for a train, and that was mainly when there was maintenance work being performed, closing parts of the line. It takes about 39 minutes to ride the main Expo Line end to end from Surrey to Downtown.
The cars used in the system are made by Bombardier. Currently, new cars are made at a factory located next to the yard in Burnaby. The system is being upgraded to new MKII cars which are air conditioned and allow riders to walk from car to car. Trains are driven by a linear induction motor. The new Canada Line however uses a different technology.
This system is a great model for the Seattle area. The distance covered on the main Expo Line is similar to the distances between Seattle and Tacoma or Everett. Every station connects with buses, and the suburban stations all have large park and rides. Many stations even are surrounded by large malls, shopping centers and/or apartment and condo towers. This is what we could have in the Seattle area.
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During Expo 86 there was a special station so that fair guests could take the Skytrain to Canada Place on the waterfront. I remember using this special line during the Expo with my grandfather. I did not ride SkyTrain again until the early 1990's. However, a couple years after Expo ended I was in town with my parents. We came back up the King George Highway (through Surrey). At that time the extension from the Frasier to Surrey was under construction. My mom pointed out the end of the line looked about 20 minutes, or less, from the border. Needless to say ever since then when we visit Vancouver, we drive into Surrey, park and take the train into town
Vancouver, like most major cities, suffers from horrendous traffic and has limited parking downtown. Also, Vancouver has NO freeways running into downtown. Canada 1, the main highway in the area, goes around the outside of the city. Therefore it is difficult to drive into downtown. However, getting to Surrey, at least from the border, is very easy. The first two stations on the line have large parking lots, and the second one is also a major bus transfer point. I could definitely see the wisdom of living in Surrey or in the surrounding area, on a bus line, and transferring to SkyTrain to go to a job downtown. The ride takes about 40 minutes end to end and as stated above, trains run as often as every 90 seconds.
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Map: © TransLink