Transportation in Vancouver

Transportation in Vancouver

Transportation in Vancouver has many of the features of modern cities worldwide and some interesting differences. Unlike many large metropolises, Vancouver has no freeways into or through the downtown area. A proposed freeway through the downtown was rejected in the 1960s by a coalition of citizens, community leaders and planners. This event "signalled the emergence of a new concept of the urban landscape" [] and has been a consistent element of city planning ever since.

As the city is surrounded by water on three sides, it has several bridges to the north and south. Although similar to most other cities in that the automobile serves as the primary mode of transport, it does have alternatives, such as the longest automated light metro system in the world and an extensive network of bike routes.

Public transportation

The Metro Vancouver operates a regional rapid mass transit network, under the auspices of the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (formerly Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority). Known as TransLink, it is responsible for all aspects of municipal transportation. In addition to public transport, TransLink is also responsible for maintaining roads and providing ferry service within the Lower Mainland.

Bus service

Bus service operates throughout most the region under a private subsidiary known as Coast Mountain Bus Company. Service in West Vancouver and Lions Bay is contracted through West Vancouver Blue Bus.

All buses are wheelchair accessible and a large number carry bike racks, able to carry one or two wheelchairs and bicycles respectively. Some older trolley and suburban diesel buses do not carry bicycle racks and are not wheelchair accessible. Unlike other North American cities which are in the process of phasing out trolleybus service, Vancouver is actively maintaining and upgrading its fleet. Vancouver is the only city in Canada other than Edmonton to still operate a trolleybus system. With recent purchases of 188 E40LFRs and 40 E60LFRs from New Flyer Industries, the trolley network will serve the downtown core with fully wheelchair accessible and bike friendly zero-emission buses.

Certain diesel commuter buses which travel to the suburbs as RapidBus have bicycle racks, wheelchair lifts, and comfortable high back "Greyhound-style" seats. Frequency in Greater Vancouver ranges from every couple minutes within downtown Vancouver to two to three trips a day in far flung suburbs of Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, and Aldergrove. "(For a complete list of bus routes in Greater Vancouver, please see List of bus routes in Greater Vancouver.)"


The SkyTrain is an Advanced rapid metro system operating fully-automated trains on two lines. Built for the Expo 86 World's Fair, it has since become the world's longest automated light rapid transit system utilizing the world's longest transit-only bridge, the SkyBridge. The Expo and Millennium Lines link downtown to the suburbs of Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey.

Future expansion

A third rapid transit line connecting downtown Vancouver to central Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport, known as the Canada Line, is under construction with completion planned in 2009. Officials also plan to expand the Expo Line, increasing it's capacity and extending its route further into the city of Surrey.

A fourth line, the Evergreen Line, to Port Moody and Coquitlam is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014.

Planning is currently underway for a $2 billion extension to the Millennium Line. The extension will start at the current VCC-Clark SkyTrain station "terminus", then run under the Broadway Corridor to terminate at the University of British Columbia.

Once the announced routes are complete, there will be a total of four lines in the SkyTrain metro network (Expo Line, Millennium Line, Canada Line, Evergreen Line) covering a majority of the Metro Vancouver region. Long range plans for future lines are being visioned but no additional routes have been formally announced.

Downtown Streetcar

The city is planning the first phase of a downtown streetcar from Granville Island around False Creek to Waterfront Station and then on to Stanley Park using a combination of modern low floor trams and heritage streetcars. Currently, the Vancouver Downtown Historic Railway is running the phase zero route, "Granville Island-Main Street SkyTrain station", in the summer months as a demonstration.

Future plans are being developed, which may extend the streetcar network into Yaletown making a ring around the downtown peninsula as phase two. Longer range plans are being discussed that may possibly extend the streetcar from Granville Island further west into the Artubus corridor, east along Hastings Street and/or south along Main Street. No formal extensions have yet been announced past phase 1.

West Coast Express

The West Coast Express, a heavy commuter rail train, serves Port Moody, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and Mission. These services have an integrated ticketing system, making public transport inexpensive and efficient.


The SeaBus is a passenger-only ferry connecting downtown Vancouver and the City of North Vancouver across Burrard Inlet. There are two ferries in the fleet, which is owned and operated by the Coast Mountain Bus Company.


Vancouver is served by a network of 170km of on- and off-road bicycle routes. Most of these routes are bikeways, streets that have extensive traffic calming measures such as traffic circles, and signal control to facilitate crossing of major roads. Neighbourhoods are encouraged to plant and care for the circles and boulevards and add public art along bike routes. Since 2004, the City has been adding more bicycle lanes on roads in the densely populated downtown core, signalling its desire to encourage greater commuter use of bicycles. The biggest deterrents remain heavy traffic, bicycle routes that suddenly end, and poor bridge crossings. In particular, the busy Burrard Bridge, where pedestrians and cyclists share a narrow sidewalk, is considered a bottleneck between the Kitsilano neighbourhood and downtown. The Second Narrows Bridge connecting Vancouver with the District of North Vancouver is also a weak link in the system with its narrow sidewalk and poor connections. []

With its vibrant cycling community Vancouver's monthly Critical Mass rides, on the last Friday of every month, attract hundreds of cyclists in what have become Canada's largest Critical Mass rides. As documented in the film "You Never Bike Alone" (2007) [] , these rides have spawned similarly styled rides, including the Midnight Mass bike ride, which happens twice a month (at midnight) and World Naked Bike Ride (in June). Bike Polo, freak bikes, bicycle car-cass, and bicycle performance rides are also growing in popularity.

The Central Valley Greenway, a 25-kilometre green bicycle corridor, was expected to be completed in March 2007.

Translink permits bicycles aboard SeaBus, SkyTrain for most of the week, and buses that are equipped with bicycle racks. []


Municipal bylaws and geography have protected Vancouver from the spread of urban freeways, and the only major freeway within city limits is Highway 1, which passes through the eastern edge of the city. All other limited-access routes entering the city (Highway 99, Knight Street, Grant McConachie Way), cease being freeways before they enter Vancouver's city limits.

The reason for the lack of freeways in Vancouver is primarily due to the protests of concerned citizens as the city was being developed. During the late 1950s proposals were made by the City to put a freeway through the heart of Chinatown. The Chinese community joined together with white supporters to prevent the freeway from being implemented and by 1971 Chinatown was declared a historical area. The only sections built were the Dunsmuir and Georgia viaducts, which are now low-speed streets. []


Vancouver is served by Vancouver International Airport (YVR), located on Sea Island in the City of Richmond, immediately south of Vancouver. YVR is the second busiest airport in Canada and one of the busiest "international airports" on the west coast of North America.

Vancouver Harbour Water Aerodrome on Burrard Inlet and a heliport near Waterfront Station link downtown directly to Victoria, Nanaimo and YVR.


Rail service is operated from the following stations:
* Waterfront Station (Vancouver) - Regional rail service operated by West Coast Express to Mission.
* Pacific Central Station - Inter-city passenger rail service is operated by VIA Rail to the interior and Eastern Canada, Toronto, and intermediate points aboard The Canadian. Inter-city passenger rail service operated by Amtrak Cascades to Seattle, Washington.
* Rocky Mountaineer Station - Tour passenger train services operated by the Rocky Mountaineer to the interior, Rocky Mountains en route to Calgary and Jasper. Recently, the Whistler Mountaineer started daily service between Vancouver and Whistler.


Two BC Ferry terminals serve the Greater Vancouver area. One is to the northwest at Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, and the other is to the south, at Tsawwassen. Routes link the mainland to Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and the Gulf Islands.


There are two private companies that operate passenger and bicycle ferries around False Creek in downtown Vancouver. Aquabus and False Creek Ferries are so-called "foot ferries" that are electric powered and can seat up to 20 passengers in a compact setting. These little ferries provide transportation for customers in the false creek area connecting the downtown peninsula with Granville Island and the false creek neighbourhoods.

Stanley Park Ferries offers water tours around Coal Harbour and Burrard Inlet.


Several private taxicab companies operate 24 hour service in Vancouver, including Yellow Cabs, Vancouver Taxi, Black Top Cabs, and MacLure's Cabs. Taxis and drivers are regulated by the city and, as of 2006, 477 licensed cabs operate in the city, including 59 wheelchair-accessible vehicles. [] A taxi ride to or from Vancouver International Airport costs approximately $22-$26. [] Cabs in Vancouver are powered by gasoline, natural gas, and electricity. Limousine services are also readily available.

Major streets

*Georgia Street
*Burrard Street
*Robson Street
*Davie Street
*Denman Street
*Pacific BoulevardCity
*Granville Street
*Main Street
*Cambie Street
*Hastings Street
*Commercial Drive
*Oak Street
*King Edward Avenue
*Boundary Road
*Clark Street/Knight Street
*Marine Drive
*Knight Street

External links

* [ City of Vancouver transportation information]
* [ TransLink - The Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority]
* [ Discover Vancouver transportation links ]
* [ Better Environmentally Sound Transportation]

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