August 31, 2009
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Canada Line: A New Portal to Vancouver
As Vancouver, BC, prepares to welcome the world to the 2010 Winter Olympics, TransLink, the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority, introduced service Aug. 17—three and a half months ahead of schedule—on its newest rapid transit line. With a total of 16 new stations, the 19-kilometer SkyTrain Canada Line connects downtown Vancouver to Richmond and Vancouver International Airport.
“The Canada Line is an important piece of the region’s overall transit network,” TransLink Chief Executive Officer Tom Prendergast said to mark the opening. “By connecting to other transit services that operate out of Waterfront Station and other Canada Line stations, Canada Line makes our transit network more integrated and provides faster and more convenient service. It also will make a significant contribution toward our greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) goals and all of the efforts going into keeping Metro Vancouver’s standing as one of the most livable places on earth.”
The new rapid transit line is Canada’s first to connect directly with a major airport, according to Larry Berg, president and chief executive officer of the Vancouver Airport Authority.
Participants in the dedication ceremonies included Stockwell Day, Canada’s minister of international trade and minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, and Gordon Campbell, premier of British Columbia. In his remarks, Day cited the Canada Line as “an example of what is achieved when all levels of government work together,” which will lead to “cleaner air, fewer GHG emissions, and shorter commute times for Vancouver residents and tourists.”
“We had 85,000 boardings in the eight hours we were open—1 to 9 p.m.—for our fare-free opening day,” said TransLink spokesperson Judy Rudin. “It was a beautiful day in Vancouver, and people didn't mind lining up for up to two hours for their chance to be ‘first.’” The first day of revenue service, Aug. 18, reported 83,000 boardings; the new line operates between 4:50 a.m. and 12:15 a.m., the same hours as the existing Expo and Millennium lines.
Interestingly, Rudin noted, plans for the line predated the area’s Olympic ambitions by more than a decade. The Transport 2021 planning document adopted in 1996 included light rail serving Richmond and the airport.
As part of opening-day festivities for the Canada Line, TransLink distributed 40,000 souvenir “passports” that visitors could have stamped at 11 of the new stations. “People were required to get at least eight stamps in order to enter a contest with prizes,” Rudin explained. “We used this marketing device to get people off the trains and to free up more capacity for those waiting in lines at each of the stations.” Stations hosted live entertainment including singers, magicians, and giveaways, and Paralympic athletes presented exhibitions of curling and half-court basketball at stations near the Olympic venues.
Canada Line Rapid Transit Inc., a subsidiary of TransLink, oversaw the project. Funding came from Translink, the Canadian and British Columbia governments, the Vancouver Airport Authority, and InTransitBC, with support from the cities of Vancouver and Richmond. InTransitBC—which designed and built the line and will operate and maintain it under a 35-year contract—is a limited partnership company owned by SNC-Lavalin Inc., the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, and the Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec.