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TransLink moves up timeline for some new SkyTrain cars

Last Updated Feb 23, 2018 at 3:17 pm PDT

(Chad Harris, CityNews Vancouver)

To keep up with demand, TransLink is fast tracking new SkyTrain cars

New SkyTrain cars coming to the Lower Mainland to handle the growing region

METRO VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It appears relief is on the way for SkyTrain riders. TransLink is promising some additional SkyTrain cars will arrive earlier than expected.

The transit authority says 28 new Expo and Millennium line cars will be up and running by early next year. Another 28 are scheduled to be operating by the end of 2019 — three years earlier than originally expected.

“Transit ridership in Metro Vancouver increased by nearly six per cent last year, building on significant ridership growth the prior year,” TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says. “We’ve had back to back record years in ridership across the system.”

In addition, two dozen new Canada Line cars are set to be running by the end of 2020.

Desmond says TransLink needs to be prepared, especially with more than 1.2 million people expected to Metro Vancouver over the next three decades. “Our first phase of our transit expansion program… has gotten us started on that.” He adds 2017 was a successful year for the transit system. “We’re making progress, we’re delivering for today, and we are building for the future.”

The additional cars will be put into service to help relieve rush-hour SkyTrain crowding. According to TransLink,ridership grew by more than 12 per cent on the Expo and Millennium lines last year, and over six per cent on the Canada Line.

TransLink is expecting the new cars to increase capacity by 23 per cent for the Millennium Line, 10 per cent for the Expo Line, and 30 per cent for the Canada Line, with a total of 8,200 additional “spaces” per peak hour on all three lines. “In two short years, the entire system will increase by about 80 cars, a very significant capacity improvement to the SkyTrain network,” Desmond says. “That means greater comfort and convenience for our customers. They will see the difference during their commutes where they’re experiencing crowding now, and there’ll be shorter wait times throughout the system.”

The 56 new Expo and Millenium line cars will be built by Bombardier. The 24 Canada Line rail cars are being contracted out to a division of Hyundai Motor Group.

The 80 new SkyTrain cars are costing nearly $300 million, funded through TransLink and the provincial and federal governments.

TransLink is expecting the new cars to increase capacity by 23 per cent for the Millennium Line, 10 per cent for the Expo Line, and 30 per cent for the Canada Line, with a total of 8,200 additional “spaces” per peak hour on all three lines.

The 80 new SkyTrain cars are costing nearly $300 million, funded through TransLink and the provincial and federal governments.

Premier John Horgan says increased capacity on transit means communities become more connected, people will get home faster, and the environment benefits from reduced carbon emissions. “When we talk about all of the policy benefits of linking communities, about being able to meet our housing challenges by improving density around SkyTrain corridors and transportation corridors, we often times lose sight of… providing a service for customers. And that’s the key part of TransLink’s announcement today, is that we’re not going to be leaving people behind.”

He’s also renewing the province’s commitment to Phase Two of the Mayors’ Council 10 Year Vision, and its 40 per cent cost obligation to it. “And we started by taking over the Pattullo Bridge to make sure that TransLink is not crippled by an overwhelming debt to replace a bridge that’s well past its best-before date.”

When it comes to other projects included in the Vision, Horgan says they’re still on the table. “The federal government and the provincial government are commited to 40 per cent each participation in the funding of the second phase of the mayors’ plan which includes LRT in Surrey, increased bus service in the north and through the suburbs, as well as the Broadway extension.”

Liberal MP Gordie Hogg, speaking on behalf of Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi, says investing in public transit infrastructure is crucial to economic development and the growing of the middle class. “Making our transit system more efficient with these new SkyTrains will improve commute times, reduce air pollution, create more inclusive communities where every one has access to public services and job opportunities.”

He adds it’s about liveability and engagement.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie says he’s pleased with the announcement, and believes it will benefit hundreds of thousands of people who rely on transit every day. “The procurement of the 24 new [Canada Line] cars scheduled to arrive by 2020 promises to increase service by about 20 per cent,” he says. “This is a very much needed compliment to an extremely popular –and often overcrowded– service that is served to transform Richmond’s downtown centre.”

Brodie says it’s not even just about busses or SkyTrains. “You just have to look to Richmond to see the effect on urban development and redevelopment that a very effective transportation system will have, as we have refocused and are redeveloping our whole downtown core and it’s all based around the Canada Line.”

He believes once all additional cars are put into service, “residents will start to feel the connection between long term region-wide planning and the kind of tangible changes that make our communties better places to live.”

As populations growth continues across the region, all parties have agreed infrastructure upgrades needs to keep up.

Selina Robinson, the Minister responsible for TransLink, says as a regular user of transit and the Evergreen Line, she’s excited and grateful for the relief. “It’s clear that enhancing and building reliable transit and transportation infrastructure that meets the needs of people, people in Metro Vancouver, is a strong priority for all levels of government.”

She says the province is working for people, and that it’s doing what it can to make life more affordable as well as enhancing the services people count on. “With Metro Vancouver expected to grown by a million people by 2040, I know that this is just the beginning.”