Sunday, Nov. 1 marks the 25th anniversary of the startup of the West Coast Express.
In that quarter century, the commuter rail service has carried 45 million passengers. They travel a route that runs from Mission to Waterfront Station in Vancouver each weekday morning, with stops at eight stations in total, and back again each evening.
Passengers can read the paper or watch a show on their device, and not worry about snow or driving stress.
It started with 5,000 passengers per day on five trains. In 2019, that had grown by more than double to 12,000 daily passengers, or 2.7 million per year. Ridership is reliable, and customers are loyal, according to TransLink.
“It’s a popular service, and people rely on it,” said TransLink spokesperson Gabrielle Price. “It’s comfortable, rather than sitting in traffic.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ridership has dropped off dramatically, and there are three daily trains rather than five, and just 2,000 daily customers.
Whether customers return once there is a COVID-19 vaccine, and the economy is vibrant again, remains to be seen. TransLink has also begun a new RapidBus service from Maple Ridge to the Coquitlam Central Skytrain station. However, TransLink believes more transportation options will mean more riders, without services pulling from each other, said Price.
There has not been a lot of expansion of the service in 25 years. At Maple Ridge City Hall there has been a lot of discussion about the need for another train station at Albion. A site frequently proposed is the waterfront property that used to launch the Albion Ferry to Fort Langley.
However despite a persistent lobby from Maple Ridge citizens and local politicians, TransLink has not been convinced of the need.
“Extensive research and costing was done and it was determined that it was not practical or financially feasible to add that station,” said Price.
TransLink said five years ago that building a park-and-ride station there could cost more than a million dollars for a gain in ridership of only another 60 commuters. Adding to the initial cost is that the parking lot is on the wrong side of the tracks, and would require an overpass to allow pedestrians to cross to the north side.
TransLink plans to mark the West Coast Express’ birthday with social media posts.
“We want to celebrate our customers, and our employees who have been working on the West Coast Express.”
The commuter train runs on CP Rail tracks, under an agreement that contains confidentiality clauses, so the term of the agreement is not known to the public.
Price said the transportation authority has a long-term deal with CP, and theirs continues to be a positive relationship.
There are not plans to stop the West Coast Express, she said.
“We’ve had 45 million passengers. Of course, we want to continue to serve those people for another 25 years.”