Many people in British Columbia rely on public transit to commute. Originally built as a showcase for Expo 86, the SkyTrain is a rapid transit rail system that connects to several cities in the province’s Metro Vancouver region. Whether you’re a sightseeing tourist or a Vancouverite whose car is in the shop, this article will show you how to get around the area while enjoying an amazing panoramic view of urban British Columbia.
Learn about the fare zones and the proof-of-payment system.
TransLink, the body that governs public transit in Metro Vancouver, operates under a proof-of-payment system. This means in order to use the buses or trains, you’ll need to provide proof that you’ve paid the fare (usually in the form of paper tickets, but this is outlined in detail in the next step).
Fares on structured into three zones. Each zone is based on municipality and is colour-coded on transit maps.
Zone 1 includes the city of Vancouver as well as the area surrounding the University of British Columbia (UBC). Coloured yellow in maps.
Zone 2 includes the cities of Burnaby, New Westminster, and Richmond. Coloured red in maps.
Zone 3 includes the cities of Surrey, Coquitlam, Port Moody, and Port Coquitlam. Coloured green in maps.
Note that the zone number is independent from the number of zones you’re travelling. For example, if you’re travelling within Surrey, you would be in Zone 3 (because geographically, Surrey is in Zone 3), but you’re only travelling within one zone (because you’re not crossing any other zones).
Know which fare class you’re in.
Concession: children ages 5 to 13, high school students ages 14 to 19 with a valid GoCard (a card displaying the student’s name, grade, and high school which enables the student to pay concession fare prices), seniors ages 65 and up, and those with disabilities with a valid HandyCard. Confession fares are generally cheaper.
Adult: all other people not considered concession.
Decide how you’re going to pay your fare.
The most common way is using cash to purchase a single fare paper ticket valid for 90 minutes. The price depends on how many zones you plan on travelling through. While fareboxes on buses only accept coins, electronic ticket machines accept bills, credit, and debit cards.
Adult prices are as follows (in Canadian dollars): one zone is $2.75, two zones is $4, and three zones is $5.50
Concession prices are as follows: one zone is $1.75, two zones is $2.75, and three zones is $3.75.
Note that the above prices are for weekdays until 6:30 pm. On weekday nights after 6:30 pm, as well as all day on weekends and holidays, the prices for all zones lower to $2.75 for adult and $1.75 for concession.
FareSaver tickets: these are one of four prepaid options and sold in booklets of ten. Like single fares, these are valid for 90 minutes.
Adult prices are as follows: one zone is $21, two zones is $31.50, and three zones is $42.
For concession, FareSaver tickets are only available for one zone at $17.50. Those wanting to travel through the other two zones must add a fare of $1 for two zones and $2 for three zones.
DayPass: the second prepaid option which allows unlimited travel through all three zones for 24 hours. This is great if you’re a tourist planning a day of sightseeing, or if you’re running multiple errands across Metro Vancouver.
The prices are $9.95 for adult and $7.50 for concession.
FareCards (monthly passes): the third prepaid option which allows unlimited travel for the entire month shown. Unlike the DayPass, however, prices differ for each zone.
Adult prices are as follows: one zone is $91, two zones is $124, and three zones is $170.
Concession passes are valid for three zones for $52.
U-Passes: available to students enrolled in participating universities only, the U-Pass is a prepaid card that entitles students to unlimited travel across all three zones when shown with their student card. Students must print their full name on the pass in order for it to be valid.
The cost of the U-Pass is included with student fees for the semester. Currently, it is $35 per month.
Note that not all post-secondary institutions are included in the program. Participating schools include UBC, Simon Fraser University, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and British Columbia Institute of Technology.
Plan your route and prepare your fare.
Take into account your final destination, the travel time, the time spent at the destination, and whether you plan on transferring to other vehicles.
For example, if you’re an adult living in Surrey and plan to spend a couple hours shopping at a mall in Burnaby, you can buy a single two-zone fare for $4 for the journey to the mall. At the end of your shopping session, you can buy the same single two-zone fare for the ride home since your previous ticket will have expired.
Consider using TransLink’s trip planner to organize your route.
Travel to the nearest train station.
Depending on where you live, you may need to hop on a bus and ride it all the way to the station. Some stations, such as Scott Road Station in Surrey, offer a park-and-ride service which allows you to drive to the station, use pay parking, and commute using the train.
Know which line you’ll be riding.
The SkyTrain has three lines on its network, which are colour coded in transit maps and signage.
Expo Line: serves Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey across 20 stations. Terminus stations are Waterfront in downtown Vancouver and King George in Surrey. Coloured dark blue in maps and signage.
Millennium Line: serves Vancouver, Burnaby, and New Westminster across 13 stations. For a portion of the ride, the tracks are shared with the Expo Line, but splits at a transfer station and continues on its own track along North Burnaby. Terminus stations are Waterfront and VCC-Clark in Vancouver. Coloured yellow in maps and signage.
Canada Line: serves downtown Vancouver, Richmond, and Vancouver International Airport across 16 stations Terminus stations are Waterfront, Richmond-Brighouse in Richmond, and YVR-Airport. The line splits at a transfer station and continues along two tracks to either Richmond-Brighouse or the airport. Coloured cyan in maps and signage.
Buy a fare or validate your prepaid ticket before going up to the trains.
As previously stated, ticket machines for single fares accept cash in the form of bills or coins, as well as major credit cards and Interac debit cards. To validate a FareSaver or DayPass, insert it into the validation machine. FareCards and U-Passes do not need to be electronically validated.
Walk up to the platform area and wait for the train.
Elevators are provided if you’re handicapped or pushing a stroller.
At this point, proof of payment is required to board the trains. You must keep your ticket with you throughout your journey until it expires or your trip is finished. Random ticket inspections may occur and you may be fined for fare evasion if you are caught with an invalid or nonexistent ticket.
Know whether you’ll be transferring to another line during your commute.
Pay attention to on-board announcements indicating the line of the current train. If you’re waiting at a station, watch the LED signs displaying the line of the incoming train.
Switch trains at Columbia if you’re on an Expo Line train towards King George and you’re wanting to transfer to the Millennium Line towards VCC-Clark, or vice versa.
Switch trains at Commercial-Broadway if you’re on an Expo Line train towards Waterfront and you’re wanting to transfer to the Millennium Line towards VCC-Clark, or vice versa.
Waterfront is the terminus station for the Expo Line and is also a transfer point to the Canada Line.
Switch trains at Bridgeport if you’re on a Canada Line train towards Richmond-Brighouse and you’re wanting to go to the airport, or vice versa.
Display common public transit etiquette and safety practices.
Wait for others to exit the train before boarding.
Consider giving up your seat to the elderly and/or handicapped, but don’t feel obligated to do this, especially if you have an invisible physical disability yourself.
Hold onto the poles when standing on a moving train.
Avoid leaning onto the doors and keep your hands away from the door windows.
Remove your backpack and place it at your feet when standing to make more room. When sitting, only place your belongings on the seat next to you if the car isn’t crowded.
Refrain from wearing strong scents as you may trigger some people’s allergies.
Clean up after yourself when eating or drinking. Leave no garbage behind.
Resist the urge to engage in large public displays of affection. Hand holding and small kisses on the cheek are fine, but please don’t spend 10 minutes making out on a crowded train.
Consider investing in self-defense weapons, like mace, if you tend to use the SkyTrain at night.
Pay attention to the stations.
When the train is approaching a station, an on-board announcement will state the name of the next station. Some newer trains have maps with LEDs that light up the remaining stations.
If you’re plugged in and can’t hear the announcements, look out the window and watch for clues that indicate your station is next (e.g. station signage, buildings along the route, bridges).
React appropriately and calmly should an emergency occur.
All cars on the SkyTrain fleet are equipped with both two-way speakerphones and yellow silent alarm strips to contact SkyTrain control operators in the event of an emergency or security threat.
If the train needs to be evacuated, follow the instructions of all SkyTrain employees. Under no circumstances should you attempt to exit the train without guided assistance.
If a fire breaks out, contact SkyTrain personnel and open all the windows to clear out smoke.
Take advantage of window and end-of-the-train seats.
A small portion of the track is underground, but, as the name implies, SkyTrain is mostly elevated above the ground and gives riders a great view of Metro Vancouver!
At night, the geodesic dome of Science World near Main Street-Science World station illuminates the sky with dots of blue light.
During hockey games at the Rogers Arena near Stadium-Chinatown station, the arena lights up blue, one of the colours of the Vancouver Canucks.
Categories: Cars & Other Vehicles