TransLink’s SkyTrain system is the fourth busiest rapid transit in North America, trailing only behind New York, Toronto and Montreal.
“It’s remarkable to me that our system is now busier than Washington D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston,” Kevin Quinn, CEO of TransLink, told the TransLink open board meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 27.
At the beginning of September, bus service was increased on 22 routes including several that serve post-secondary institutions. “Following feedback from the City of Surrey and local businesses we also re-directed route 531 to better serve the Campbell Heights industrial area, a key manufacturing hub in our region.
“Last week I joined the Mayors’ Council warning really that time is running out for provincial and federal governments to commit new funding for public transit expansion amid really surging ridership in the Metro Vancouver region,” Quinn noted. “Now, more than ever, it’s clear that in order to solve our region’s housing crisis, we must acknowledge that interconnection with transit infrastructure and it’s ability to open the door to affordable housing.”
Compared to 2019, TransLink ridership recovery has surpassed all other major transit systems in North America, last week reaching 90 per cent recovery, “another post-pandemic high.” Bus ridership in Surrey, Quinn noted, has grown by 20 per cent over 2019 levels.
During afternoon rush hour in Surrey, he added, one-quarter of the bus trips are over-crowded in the busiest direction.
“Of course we know that this is going to get worse as our population grows because we are growing fast. Metro Vancouver sees 50,000 people move here each year and these people need a way to conveniently get around the region.”
Quinn told the board meeting, held virtually, that 205 Mark V trains will be added to the SkyTrain fleet, on the Expo and Millennium lines, as part of $3 billion expansion program in preparation of Broadway Subway and Surrey-Langley Skytrain coming on line.
The trains, he said, will carry up to 25 per cent more passengers than do current trains.
“I’m so happy to share that the first of the new five-car trains is currently undergoing testing at a facility in Kingston, Ontario,” he said. “We anticipate the first Mark V train to arrive in Vancouver by early 2024 for further conditioning and testing before entering service by the end of 2024, and then the rest of the fleet will be gradually added throughout by the end of 2028.”
Quinn also noted that riders will find free public wifi on the five rapid bus routes, some SkyTrain cars, on SeaBus and TransLink is aiming to install it system-wide.
Sany Zein, president and general manager of BC Rapid Transit Company, reiterated that ridership is rebounding faster than in any other Metro area in North America “and we continue to set record riderships, post COVID, every quarter,” making for a “tremendous challenge.”