Vancouver SkyTrain

From Academic Kids

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The platform at Metrotown Station in Burnaby is one of the busiest in the SkyTrain system.

The SkyTrain in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is an advanced light rapid transit 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. [1] ( The system uses the same family of linear induction motor-driven trains as the Scarborough RT line in Toronto, the Putra LRT in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the JFK AirTrain in New York.


Brief description

The Expo Line (coloured blue on route maps) opened in late 1985, in conjunction with the Expo 86 World's Fair. The Millennium Line (coloured yellow on maps) opened on August 31, 2002. The two lines follow a common route between Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver and Columbia Station in New Westminster, serving the cities of Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster en route. From Columbia, Expo Line trains continue through Surrey to King George Station, while Millennium Line trains loop back through New Westminster, Burnaby and Vancouver to Commercial Drive Station, adjacent to Broadway Station on the common Expo/Millennium Line. Although most of the system is elevated (hence its name), SkyTrain runs at or below grade through Downtown Vancouver, and short stretches in Burnaby and New Westminster.

Rolling stock

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The MK II trains have more spacious interiors than earlier models, allowing them to carry more riders in trains of the same size.

Originally, the Expo Line used 12-metre (40-foot) lightweight 'MK I' ('Mark I') ICTS cars similar to the ones used in Toronto's Scarborough RT and Detroit's People Mover. For the Millennium Line, articulated pairs of new 18-metre (60-foot) 'MK II' ('Mark II') cars were built by Bombardier, similar to the cars used in Kuala Lumpur's Putra LRT. Each pair of cars (either two old cars or one articulated set of two new cars) is permanently joined together in a two-car trainset, or 'married pair'. There is also a middle 'c' car for the MK II trains, but they are rarely used, if at all.

Both old and new cars run on both lines. Two MK I trainsets are almost always joined together to form a four-car train, but old trainsets are never coupled with new trainsets. Two-car trains occasionally run during periods of low passenger volume (late at night, for example), while six-car MK I and two joined MK II trains are possible at times of peak capacity (for example, when many people are going home from a special event in downtown Vancouver) and during track maintenance, when frequencies are reduced.

Currently the MK I cars are being used primarily during peak hours.

Organizational history

Until 1999, the British Columbia Rapid Transit Company owned and operated SkyTrain on behalf of the Vancouver Regional Transit System, which had overall responsibility for public transportation in the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) in affiliation with a separate organization, BC Transit. In 1999, the GVRD's new transportation agency TransLink took over SkyTrain.


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The SkyTrain system currently consists of two lines, an extension to one line under construction, and a third line and another extension approved. 33 stations exist on the two lines currently in operation. The current length is 49.6 km.

Expo Line

The Expo Line connects Waterfront Station in Vancouver to King George Station in Surrey. It was originally built in 1985 (in time for the 1986 World's Fair) and was named the "Expo Line" once the Millennium Line was built. This line consists of 20 stations.

Millennium Line

The Millennium Line follows the Expo Line from Waterfront Station to Columbia Station in New Westminster, then continues along its own route to Commercial Drive station in Vancouver. An extension of the Millennium Line from Commercial Drive Station to Vancouver Community College (VCC Station) is already under construction and is due to open in 2005. Once the VCC Station is built, the Millennium Line will consist of 13 stations it does not share with the Expo Line.

Another extension into Coquitlam had originally been approved by TransLink, but currently a street-level light railway is being planned for that region instead (see Future extensions below).

Richmond-Airport-Vancouver Line

The Richmond-Airport-Vancouver Line ("RAV Line") has been approved by TransLink, possibly using the same technology as the Expo and Millennium Lines. It will connect Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver to Vancouver International Airport and Richmond City Centre. The line will run through a tunnel under Downtown and much of the city of Vancouver, then surface and cross the Fraser River, continuing to Richmond City Centre. A branch will serve Vancouver International Airport. The "RAV Line" is currently scheduled to be completed by 2009, in time for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Once the RAV line is complete it will be renamed the Canada Line.

Future extensions

Millenium line

A long-term proposal for the Millennium Line exists to extend the line from the VCC station further west through the Mount Pleasant and Fairview neighbourhoods in Vancouver. The extension would run as a subway along central Broadway south of False Creek, serving the government, commercial, and hospital areas then terminating at either Arbutus or Burrard (with rapid transit extended to UBC).


In Coquitlam, an extension of the Millennium Line from Lougheed Town Centre Station to Coquitlam Town Centre was proposed when the original Millennium Line was built, and the necessary junction tracks already exist at Lougheed Town Centre Station. Had the line been successfully extended, the Millennium Line would have likely stop operating along the Waterfront-Columbia section of the Expo Line, with the Columbia-Lougheed Town Centre section becoming a branch of either the Expo or Millennium Line. Alternatively, the Coquitlam extension could have become part of the Expo Line, with the Millennium Line terminating at Lougheed Town Centre.

TransLink decided in 2004, however, to instead develop a street-level light railway for Coquitlam. [2] ( It is hoped that contracts will be awarded in the autumn of 2006, allowing construction to begin in 2007. For more information, see TransLink's page on the line ( TransLink are inviting the public to suggest names ( for the new line.

There are no plans to extend the SkyTrain system to Coquitlam in the foreseeable future.


On May 11, 2002, Busby + Associates Architects, designers of the Brentwood SkyTrain station in Burnaby, were honoured for their work with a Governor General's Medal in Architecture.


The SkyTrain uses the world's longest bridge used only by transit services: the SkyBridge crosses the Fraser River between New Westminster and Surrey. It is a 616 m long cable-stayed bridge, with towers 123 m tall. SkyTrain was also one of the first fully-automated rapid-transit systems in the world.

External links

  • TransLink ( - The organization that owns and operates SkyTrain
  • Northeast Sector Rapid Transit Project ( - TransLink's page for the proposed Coquitlam light railway connection

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