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Vancouver’s public transit system is managed by TransLink , Metro Vancouver's regional transportation authority. The publkic transit system includes public bus and rapid transit services and a cross harbour ferry. SkyTrain is the city's Automated Rapid Transit system with three lines, Expo, Millennium, Canada, that radiate from the downtown peninsula. A fourth line, Evergreen, is under construction and expected to be in service by 2016. West Coast Express is the city's commuter rail service, running mostly during commuter rush hour periods. SeaBus is the city's passenger ferry service between Vancouver's Waterfront Station and Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. Buses are operated by Coast Mountain Bus in all areas of Metro Vancouver other than West Vancouver which operates its own bus system (Blue Buses). The Blue Bus system includes an express service between Vancouver and BC Ferry's Horseshoe Bay terminal. Trip planning, schedules, maps and details of fares are available on the Translink's website. One fare structure applies for all buses, Skytrain, and the SeaBus.
Besides Translink, other transportation options in Metro Vancouver include passenger boats (or water taxis, or harbour ferries,) to/from Granville Island, and the SkyRide at the base of Grouse Mountain, which is an aerial tram that offers transit up the mountain (and one of the best views of the city and metro area). Longer distance regional transportation is provided by floatplanes at the Vancouver Harbour Water Aerodrome at the foot of the Coal Harbour neighbourhood, helicopters from Waterfront Station, BC Ferries services for vehicles and foot passengers from terminals at Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen, and intercity coach services from bus depots in Vancouver and Coquitlam.
Canada Line (North-South)
This metro line has two routes from downtown, to Richmond Centre and Airport. Signage on the cars will be either "Richmond/Brighouse - Waterfront" or "YVR/Airport - Waterfront".
The line travels north-south from Waterfront Station to Bridgeport Station, then forks to either Richmond/Brighouse Station or YVR/Airport Station. The trains alternate between the two destinations. Travel time for either route is 26 minutes. All downtown stations and all but one Vancouver city stations are underground while all Richmond and Airport stations are elevated.
The Canada Line platform at Waterfront Station is linked to the other SkyTrain lines (Expo and Millennium), West Coast Express commuter rail, and Seabus and helicopter platforms by a 100 m underground tunnel into the large hall of the old CPR Station. Continue through the north side doors in the direction the train arrives.
The most popular stop on the Canada Line is the central downtown Vancouver Entertainment District (Vancouver City Centre Station) at the heart of Georgia Street and Granville/Robson Street. Other popular destinations are Vancouver City Hall (Broadway-City Hall Station), Oakridge Centre (Oakridge Station), and Aberdeen Centre (Aberdeen Station). This line is popularly called Canada Line. Expo, Millenium and Evergreen are popularly called Skytrain.
Expo Line (East-West)
Expo Line is the original metro route and is where the name SkyTrain was conceived - "a metro train in the sky". The line travels east-west from downtown to the suburb of Surrey in the south east central section of the region. Signage on the trains will be "Waterfront - King George". Travel time from Waterfront Station to King George Station is 40 minutes.
Traveling east from Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver, the Expo and Millenium lines follow the same track to the Columbia Station in New Westminster, where the lines separate and Expo Line crosses SkyBridge at the Fraser River into Surrey.
** If you are traveling to any destinations along the stretch until Columbia, you do not need to worry about which line you get on. If you are heading to Coquitlam or Surrey, then you need to make sure you are on the correct train, or switch trains at Columbia Station.
Downtown Vancouver stations are underground or at ground level, and most other stations are elevated.
Expo Line provides easy access to popular areas like The Drive in Vancouver city (Broadway/Commercial Drive Station), Chinatown (Stadium-Chinatown Station), Metrotown (Metrotown Station), Pacific Central Station [bus, rail] and Science World (Main Street Station) and downtown New Westminster (New Westminster Station).
Millenium Line (Loop, East-West)
Millennium Line travels east-west from downtown to Burnaby, then loops back into Vancouver city currently terminating at VCC/Clark Station (with plans for an eastward extension under the central Broadway corridor to terminate at Arbutus, part way to UBC). Signage on the trains will be "Waterfront - VCC/Clark" via "Columbia Station".
The current routing of the Millennium Line is in the shape of a reclining number 6 with an elongated loop, in an east-west direction from downtown. It shares stops with the Expo Line eastbound from Waterfront Station to Columbia Station in New Westminster at which point Millennium Line curls into the northern side of its loop at the Coquitlam/Burnaby boundary at Lougheed Mall Station, then travels westbound past Brentwood Mall Station to meet up with the Expo Line back at the "stem" of the 6 at Commercial Drive/Broadway Station then continues to the terminus at VCC/Clark Station. A transfer to the Expo Line is necessary at Broadway/Commercial Station to reach downtown Vancouver when traveling the Millennium Line's VCC/Clark Station routing; a pedestrian bridge across Broadway links the platforms.
The travel time from Waterfront Station to Columbia Station is 30 minutes and from Broadway/Commercial Drive Station to Columbia Station is 25 minutes. Millennium Line trains travel in both directions; it's not a one way loop. Most Millennium Line stations outside downtown Vancouver are elevated.
Millenium and Expo line trains both stop at Main Street Station, where there is an easy 4 minute walk to Pacific Central Station (Intercity bus, VIA Rail, and Amtrak).
Coast Mountain Bus operates Translink bus services, with a few exceptions as noted
*BC Ferries Tsawwassen and Horseshoe Bay Terminals
*The North Shore: North Vancouver, West Vancouver (West Vancouver Blue Bus)
*To the East: Burnaby, New Westminster, Port Moody, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, Mission (BC Transit).
*To the Southeast: Surrey, Langley
*To the South: Richmond, Delta, Tsawwassen, White Rock
The TransLink SeaBus plies Burrard Inlet from the downtown Vancouver to North Vancouver. SeaBus is a passenger-only catamaran with a seating capacity of 400. The spectacular crossing from Waterfront Station to Lonsdale Quay takes 12 minutes.
SeaBus is on a proof-of-payment ("honour") system; you should pay for your fare before entering the SeaBus terminal, and you may be asked to show your ticket to a fare inspector before boarding. Large electronic displays inside and outside the terminal count down the time until the arrival of the next SeaBus. The North Vancouver SeaBus terminal is right next to the popular Lonsdale Quay public market.
WCE offers Commuter Rail service between downtown Vancouver and suburban Mission, BC in the far eastern section of the metropolitan area. Between Vanouver's Waterfront Station and Mission City, the train stops at Port Moody, Coquitlam Central, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Maple Meadows, and Port Haney. Trains make 5 trips westbound from Mission to Vancouver in the morning and return eastbound to Mission in the afternoon. In addition, a bus service called the "Train-Bus" provides a slower service to the same stations, with two trips westbound after the morning trains and and 5 trips eastbound before and after the afternoon trains.
A COMPASS CARD is a reloadable plastic fare card which is purchased with a $6 refundable deposit. It can be loaded and reloaded with Stored Value for discounted pay-as-you-go fares. Fares are calculated by tapping in and tapping out at the Seabus, Millenium Line, Expo Line and Canada Line stations. Only tap in on the bus, not out. Tapping out at the station gates will display the card balance.
Two types of Compass Cards that will be of interest to tourists are the Adult and the Concession cards. Information about where each one can be purchased is HERE. Reloading both Adult and Concession Cards can be done at a CVM (Compass Vending Machine) at stations , BC Ferries Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen terminals and at some London Drugs stores.
A preloaded $16 Compass Card can be purchased from fare dealers ($6 deposit plus $10 Stored Value). When needed the card can be topped up at CVMs in stations and 18 London Drugs stores, or online at compasscard.ca.
COMPASS TICKETS, when purchased from a CVM, are single fare electronic tickets, usable on buses, Skytrain lines and the SeaBus. Regular adult fares are $2.75 for one zone, $4.00 for two, or $5.50 for three zones. Regular fares apply on weekdays before 6:30 pm. Concession fares, including children between 5 and 13 and seniors over 65 years of age, cost $1.75, $2.75 an $3.75 for one, two and three zones respectively. After 6:30 pm weekdays, and all day on weekends and holidays, the adult fare through the whole system is $2.75 - Adults and $1.75 - Concession.
A Compass Ticket purchased on the bus is a paper ticket, good for using only on buses. Exact fare in coins is needed on the bus. Travelling by only bus will require a one zone ticket throughout all zones at all times, $2.75/$1.75.
A fare is good for 90 minutes within the purchased zone, with no restrictions on transfers. Additional fares apply on the West Coast Express service.
No extra fare is payable for bicycles on transit. Racks on the front of buses have space for 2 bicycles, and bicycles are allowed on skytrains subject to time-of-day and space limitations. Info here.
A DAY PASS can be purchased from a CVM. It will be automatically validated for same day use until last service. A Day Pass can be purchased from a fare dealer which then needs to validated on the day of use at a station platform or on the bus.
THE $5 AIRPORT ADDFARE. There is no longer a fare dealer at the airport. At the station, travellers can use cash, credit or debit at CVMs to purchase stored-value Compass Cards, single-use Compass Tickets, and DayPass Compass Tickets. A $5 Addfare is applied to the single-use and DayPass ticket price, and to stored-value trips. Adult rates apply to all fare types, since Concession cards and tickets are not available from vending machines. A "Sea Island Only" Compass ticket allows free travel between YVR station and the next two stations.
For services not provided by Translink, please refer to them for their fare and scheduling options.
Translink options (Bus, Skytrain, Seabus and Westcoast Express) are very close to 100% accessible for those with disabilities.
Go the TransLink website, at www.translink.bc.ca, and use the "Trip Planner" function to plan out your route. Enter a "from" and "to" address to get specific information for your trip. Landmarks can also be used instead of addresses. Or print out one of the detailed downloadable maps to get a sense of how you'll get from here to there. Google Maps can also give transit directions for Vancouver; go to www.maps.google.com, select "Get directions", and make sure to specify "by public transit" (at the bottom of the "get directions" box) rather than the default "by car".
Passenger (Foot) Ferries:
The two ferry services that connect Granville Island with downtown are outside of TransLink’s fee structure. They are known as False Creek Ferries and Aquabus Ferries, and both provide numerous runs from the island to various stops on the False Creek side of the downtown peninsula.
Floatplanes land in downtown Vancouver's harbour at the Vancouver Harbour Water Aerodrome, at the foot of the Coal Harbour neighbourhood. There are two airlines (or more?) providing service to Victoria, Nanaimo, Tofino, and other popular destinations. Floatplanes are not affiliated with Translink and have their own fare systems but are nevertheless integral to Vancouver's transit and transportation options.
HeliJet offers helicopter service from downtown Vancouver to Victoria and YVR/Vancouver International Airport. Passengers can enter either from Waterfront Station or can drive up to the helipad on Waterfront Boulevard. This service is not affiliated with Translink and has its own fare system.
BC Ferries (Vehicles and foot passengers):
Separate BC Ferries' routes link Horseshoe Bay (West Vancouver) with Departure Bay for Nanaimo, Bowen Island, and Langdale for the Sunshine Coast. Ferry routes from Tsawwassen include Swartz Bay for Victoria, Duke Point for Nanaimo, and various Southern Gulf Islands. Tsawwassen is accessible from downtown Vancouver via the Canada line and a bus. Horseshoe Bay is linked to downtown Vancouver by a West Vancouver Blue Bus service. There is public bus service between Swartz Bay and downtown Victoria. Between Vancouver and Victoria separate fares must be paid for the ferry and the transit at each end. Alternatively, for a faster trip between downtown Vancouver and downtown Victoria, you can take the Pacific Coach Lines through bus that travels on the ferry. In Vancouver do not board trolleybus #20 with the destination sign "Victoria" as this goes to Victoria Drive in Vancouver, not to Victoria on Vancouver Island.
2Vancouver also has transportation info.