All You Need To Know About the Vancouver SkyTrain

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A city and its transportation network share a relationship akin to the one between a human body and the several networks of blood vessels within it. A city, much like the human body, suffers if its transportation networks fall short of meeting its needs. In this light, Vancouver is blessed with one which does a lot more than meet its needs. The SkyTrain transit system fits perfectly with the character of Vancouver; serving both a functional and an aesthetic utility.

Contrary to the name, it is not one of those fancy hovering trains that we are all too familiar with from those cyberpunk movies. Vancouver is by no means an advanced Wakandaesque city-state(or is it??) with flying hover-trains. Yet, that does not beguile the fact that the SkyTrain is really quite awesome on its own right! It is a state-of-the-art automated, elevated, light rapid transport system (Tony Stark would be proud!) which meanders throughout downtown Vancouver and has networks connecting it with the surrounding municipalities.

Why Will You Love the Skytrain?

It is a citywide network, connecting Vancouver with New Westminster, Burnaby, Surrey, and Richmond. The network as a whole is conveniently designed to be an ideal ride for a day’s sightseeing of the city; several of its stations being situated near the most sought after tourist spots such as Queen Elizabeth Park ( King Edward Station), Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden (Stadium-Chinatown Station) and the Science World ( Main Street-Science World Station). Not to mention, it extends directly to, and from the Vancouver International Station, ending at Waterfront Station. Moreover, with the DayPass for just $9.00 you can exhaust the whole of the 28 Km route that it covers, making it one of the best bargains for transportation options in Vancouver.

Now that we have broken the ice and established the fact that the SkyTrain is really quite awesome, let us explore some interesting facts and information about the SkyTrain!

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1. The Compass Card

The Vancouver transit system, for lack of a better word, can be quite daunting at first for the uninitiated wanderer. Yet, once familiarised with the system, one cannot help but appreciate its elegance and convenience. The Compass card is your best bet, as a means to traverse the transit lines in the most hassle-free manner. Not to mention, the Compass card as an option is actually on average easier on the pocket than just going for cash and tickets. Basically, it is a reloadable fare card which works on the transit system as a whole, everywhere in Metro Vancouver.

These cards can be loaded with a number of fare options such as

  • “monthly passes”,
  • “day passes” and
  • “stored value”.

If you’re in Vancouver as a tourist, you should definitely go for the “day pass”, as it allows you unrestricted travel within all the three zones into which the transit network is divided, for an entire day. On the other hand, a “month pass” is the more suitable option if you’re planning on staying in Vancouver for a while.

You can choose to buy a one, two or three-zone month pass that will allow you to ride the SkyTrain for the duration of a calendar month. Lastly, you have the option of “stored value”, which is the one you should go for if you don’t plan to use transit very often. When paying by a single fair, the ticket lasts for a duration of 90 minutes and can be used multiple times within those 90 minutes. Moreover, a child under five years of age can ride the SkyTrain or any of the transit systems free of cost. A concession pass is your option, if you’re between the ages of five and eighteen years, to get cheaper travel transit fares.

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2. The Zone Divisions and the Lines

The Metro Vancouver transit system is divided into three zones—

Zone 1– The city of Vancouver

Zone 2– North Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and Richmond

Zone 3– Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Surrey, Langley, Pitt Meadows, and Maple Ridge.

There are three SkyTrain lines—

The Canada Line extends from YVR to Waterfront Station in Downtown Vancouver. One thing to be aware of when you’re riding the Canada line is that the train will have alternating destinations. At times, it may very well look like you’re heading in the same direction but one train will be going to Richmond Brighouse, the other one going to YVR. The Expo Line starts at Waterfront Station and has alternating destinations of King George in Surrey, and Production Way in Burnaby; similar to the Canada line. The Millennium Line starts connects VCC-Clark station to Lafarge Lake-Douglas in Coquitlam.

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3. SkyBridge

SkyBridge….because under every futuristically named train is a similarly named bridge! The SkyBridge is the world’s longest cable-supported double-tracked transit-only bridge, which is a part of the SkyTrain network connecting New Westminster with Surrey and spanning the breadth of the Fraser River. Hyundai Engineering & Construction partnered with a Chilliwack-based construction company to manufacture the bridge.

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4. Millennium Masterpiece

The original stations of the Millennium Line, connecting Waterfront Station to VCC-Clark Station (near Vancouver Community College’s Broadway campus) were designed by some of the top architects of British Colombia. The Busby and Associates Architects, who designed the Brentwood Town Centre Station in Burnaby City, were honored with the Governor General’s Medal in Architecture in 2004.

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5. The Olympic Spirit

The 2010 Winter Olympics brought with it a surge in SkyTrain’s ridership. During the 17-day event, the SkyTrain’s compartments were cramped with snowsports enthusiasts eager to visit Whistler and Cypress Mountain; both spots featuring as important sites for the events. Each event ticket included an unlimited day-of transit usage which helped proliferate the number of passengers who availed the SkyTrain. There was a record 110 percent increase in the ridership to an average of 228,000 per day, and on February 19, with a single-day record of 287,400 passengers.

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6. Transportation and Communication: World in Motion — World in Touch

In the 1950s, Vancouver bit adieu to its then public transit rail system. It was because the British Columbia Electric Railway Company (BCER) then chose buses as the means of future transport, to accommodate the rising commuter needs. However, the increasing number of buses and private cars led to the decline of streetcar ridership, eventually leading to the BCER ending streetcar service in 1955.

Vancouver’s traffic problems began to worsen in the 1960s and 70s because of the dearth of rail networks and freeways, combined with a significant increase in the number of cars. The need for a rapid transit system rose in the 1970s and 80s. Due to the demand, the “Advanced Rapid Transit” was selected to be built in Vancouver and showcased as the highlight of Expo 86. The first line that was built, epitomized the fair’s theme: “ Transportation and Communication: World in Motion — World in Touch”.

7. Automated Navigation, Yes Yet Not an Automated Voice?

The SkyTrain announcements aren’t merely programmed automated robotic voices like your quirky personal Google assistant. A woman named Laureen Reagan, president of the video production company known as Reagan Productions is the all too familiar voice of most of the SkyTrain announcements. Reagan’s voice was re-recorded to meet the requisite needs for the recently updated transit lines.

Fun fact: Even Morgan Freeman’s voice made it to the Skytrain sometime back in 2018 – though it didn’t last long!


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