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Jul 06, 2023
All About Vancouver’s Skytrain System

Transportation and commuting in Vancouver

Given Greater Vancouver’s sprawl and the multitude of experiences it offers, an efficient public transportation system is essential for both residents and visitors. 

Among the various modes of public transport, the SkyTrain holds a special place. Not only does it make commuting hassle-free, but it also provides some spectacular views of the city from above. Whether you’re a local looking to reduce your carbon footprint or a tourist seeking the most efficient way to explore, the SkyTrain is an excellent choice.

Overview of the SkyTrain

The SkyTrain, as the name suggests, is a predominantly elevated rapid transit system that has been serving Metro Vancouver since its inception in 1985, during Expo 85 – The World’s Fair. It was a groundbreaking development at the time, and over the years, it has grown to become one of the cornerstones of Vancouver’s public transportation network.

Today, the SkyTrain comprises three lines: The Expo Line, the Millennium Line, and the Canada Line. The Expo Line was the first to be introduced and connects downtown Vancouver to the cities of Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey. The Millennium Line, which initially operated as a loop from Waterfront to Waterfront, now connects VCC-Clark Station in Vancouver to Lafarge Lake-Douglas in Coquitlam. The newest addition, the Canada Line, links downtown Vancouver to the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and the city of Richmond.

One of the remarkable aspects of the SkyTrain is its automation. It is one of the world’s longest fully automated rapid transit systems, which allows for frequent service and efficient operations.

The SkyTrain is integrated with other forms of public transportation via TransLink – the regional transportation authority. This integration includes buses, the SeaBus (a passenger ferry service), and the West Coast Express (a commuter rail service), making it incredibly convenient for commuters to switch modes of transport as needed.

The SkyTrain stations are generally well-equipped with facilities like bicycle racks, retail outlets, and are designed to be accessible to people with disabilities.

Understanding the SkyTrain Map

Navigating the SkyTrain starts with understanding its map. The SkyTrain map is color-coded, with each line represented by a different color: Expo Line in dark blue, Millennium Line in yellow, and Canada Line in light green.

Major Stations:

Waterfront Station: Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, Waterfront Station is a significant hub where the Expo Line and Canada Line converge. It’s also a connection point to the SeaBus, which brings passengers to and from the Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver.

Commercial-Broadway: This station serves as a junction between the Expo and Millennium Lines and is one of the busiest in the network.

Bridgeport Station: Located in Richmond, this station is where riders switch from the Canada Line’s main track to the branch that goes to the Vancouver International Airport.

Broadway-City Hall Station: An important station on the Canada Line, providing access to Cambie Street and the City Hall.

Interchange Stations

Riders can switch between the Expo and Millennium Lines at Commercial-Broadway, Production Way-University, and Lougheed Town Centre stations.

To move from the Expo Line to the Canada Line, transfer at Waterfront Station.

The SkyTrain map also indicates bus exchanges, park and ride facilities, and other transportation links at different stations.

Using the SkyTrain – A Step-by-Step Guide

1. Buying Tickets and Using Compass Cards

You can purchase tickets from the ticket vending machines at all SkyTrain stations. These machines accept cash, debit cards, and credit cards.

Regular riders should consider getting a Compass Card, which is a contactless smart card used for electronic transit fare payment. It’s not only convenient but also offers discounted fares compared to single-trip tickets.

2. Boarding the Train

Follow the signs to the correct platform for your line.

Stand behind the yellow line on the platform and wait for the train to come to a complete stop.

Let passengers exit the train before boarding.

If you’re using a Compass Card, tap in at the card reader before boarding and tap out when you exit.

3. Transferring Between Lines

If you need to switch lines, follow the signs to the correct platform at the interchange stations.

You don’t need to tap out and back in again when transferring between lines.

4. Accessibility

All SkyTrain stations and trains are accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.

Look for designated waiting areas and priority seating within the trains.

Safety and Etiquette

When using the SkyTrain, it’s important to follow safety protocols and be mindful of social etiquette to ensure a pleasant ride for yourself and fellow passengers.

Safety Measures:

Stay behind the yellow line on the platform until the train comes to a complete stop.

Don’t attempt to board the train when the doors are closing.

If traveling with children, keep a close eye on them at all times.

Be aware of emergency exits and safety procedures displayed in the train cars.

In case of an emergency, use the speakerphone located in each train car to communicate with SkyTrain staff.

Social Etiquette:

Allow passengers to exit the train before attempting to board.

Move to the center of the train car to make space for others.

Keep your belongings close to you and avoid occupying additional seats.

Keep conversations and music at a moderate volume.

Offer your seat to seniors, pregnant women, and persons with disabilities.

SkyTrain for Tourists

For tourists, the SkyTrain is one of the best ways to explore Vancouver efficiently. Here are some tips and special passes that might be helpful:

Tourist DayPass

Consider purchasing a DayPass, which offers unlimited travel on the SkyTrain, SeaBus, and buses for one day. DayPasses can be purchased at ticket vending machines and at various tourist destinations.

Scenic Rides

For scenic views of the city, ride the Expo Line between Waterfront and Commercial-Broadway, and the Canada Line between Waterfront and Vancouver City Centre.

Take a ride to the end of the Millennium Line to Lafarge Lake-Douglas for a peaceful retreat at Lafarge Lake.

Future Developments

The SkyTrain network continues to evolve to cater to the growing transportation needs of Metro Vancouver. Here are some exciting developments to look forward to:

Broadway Subway Project:

An extension of the Millennium Line, the Broadway Subway Project, is currently under construction. This extension will add several new stations along Broadway, and provide access to the #99 b-line from Arbutus to UBC. The project is due for completion in 2026.

Surrey-Langley SkyTrain:

Another major development is the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension, which aims to extend the Expo Line to connect King George Skytrain station with Langley City, significantly improving transit accessibility in the region.

These developments are a testament to the continuous commitment to improving public transportation in Vancouver and ensuring the SkyTrain remains an efficient and reliable service for all.

The SkyTrain is an integral component of Vancouver’s public transportation network. Its efficiency, convenience, and integration with other transit modes make it an invaluable asset for both residents and visitors. With continuous expansion plans in the pipeline, the SkyTrain is poised to become even more instrumental in shaping the city’s connectivity and sustainability.

Whether you’re a commuter looking for a hassle-free travel option or a tourist seeking to explore the gems of Vancouver, the SkyTrain offers a practical and enjoyable transit experience.

Looking for accommodation in Vancouver? Browse our more than 200+ properties throughout Greater Vancouver or connect with our friendly team for a recommendation. The majority of our properties are in ideal locations, well connected via Skytrain and other Translink services.

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