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Vancouver Transit - A Brief History and Overview: (Transit Information 604-521-0400)


Back in the early part of the 20th century, Vancouver had a fairly well developed Public Transportation system with extensive Streetcar lines and a Rapid Transit system known as the "Interurban" which ran from downtown eastwards towards the Fraser Valley & south to Steveston . With the rise of the private automobile, we adopted the same philosophy as Los Angeles and assumed that Public Transportation was doomed, and the car was the wave of the future. Both the Streetcar system and the Interurban were dismantled. However, public pressure prevented the construction of massive Freeways like those in Los Angeles, and Vancouver was left with both a lousy transit and public highway system. This has created an ugly traffic problem.

Toronto, on the other hand, took the opposite point of view, and today has one of the finest Public Transit systems in North America. It was not until the mid 80's, that Vancouver's transit system underwent major improvements with the construction of the Skytrain Rapid Transit (I have an extensive section on the Skytrain system if you follow the link below). The system got the name, Skytrain, since much of it is elevated, however new lines are tending to be placed underground, so the moniker is no longer totally appropriate.  Vancouver still lags behind Toronto and Montreal in Public Transit, but is rapidly improving. New Skytrain lines, Rapid Buses & other innovations are taking the Vancouver Transit system towards becoming one of the finest in North America. There is always public outcry at the cost and proposals to help finance it, such as increased fares, tax levies, & gas surcharges. Hopefully most people realize that an efficient and extensive transit system is in everyone's best interests, including those who never use the system.

After the election in 2008 of Mayor Gregor Robinson, a avid cyclist, Vancouver embarked on an ambitious program of bike lanes. Mr. Robinson apparently envisions Vancouver as the new Amsterdam without the Red Light District and pot cafes. Of course, Vancouver is not exactly as flat as a pancake, so I doubt it will ever reach the level of the Dutch city. However, expect the same attitude that cyclists own the road, and watch out for them.

Vancouver's Bus system is known under the name "Coast Mountain Bus Company". The parent company is known as "TransLink" and consists of 4 main components, the Skytrain Rapid Transit, Buses, the Seabus fast ferry and the West Coast Express Commuter Train. The term "Translink" is the common term used to describe the whole system. All are described in the links below. Under "Other Forms", you will find Taxis, Collectivo's, Hitchhiking, Biking, etc.

Transport to Vancouver Island is found under Ferries.

For Whistler, see the Whistler section..

Transit Fares:


Vancouver is generally divided into 3 Transit Zones (Commuter Trains are a special case). The Skytrain crosses all 3. As of this writing (May 2012), Fares are $2.50 for one Zone, $3.75 for two Zones and $5.00 for three Zones. Fare Zones disappear after 6:30 PM and the lowest transit fare ($2.50) applies. (There is a surcharge for the rapid transit branch to the Airport.) You will receive a ticket when you board a bus, this is also your transfer to another bus, Skytrain or Seabus. You have to insert them in a reader box every time you board another bus. This checks the ticket for validity. They are good for about 90 minutes and will allow you to transfer to another bus, the Skytrain or Seabus, as long as you are not doubling back. (Although you can often get away with that).  If you board the Skytrain or Seabus first, your ticket also serves as a transfer. You MUST have exact change for buses. Tickets for the Skytrain and Seabus are from Automated dispensers in the stations. The Skytrain is on the honour system, but there are spot checks with heavy fines for cheaters. Your chance of being checked is about 1 in 4, usually checks happen at the fare boundary points. If you are a tourist, you may be given some leeway if you accidentally cross a fare zone with the improper ticket. Most of the guards are quite reasonable if you explain you got confused and can prove you are not a Vancouver area resident.

 You can also obtain a day transit pass for $9.00 (2012) valid for unlimited travel. These are available at most supermarkets (try Safeway or Save-On foods) and convenience stores. You may also purchase books of transit tickets. These will save you about 10% and come in books of 10.


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