Expo Line (TransLink)
An Expo Line train passing over Clark Drive
|Type||Light Metro Rapid Transit|
King George and Production Way–University
|Daily ridership||289,460 (June 2011)|
|Opened||December 11, 1985 for Expo 86|
|Owner||TransLink (BC Transit)|
|Operator(s)||British Columbia Rapid Transit Company|
|Rolling stock||Bombardier ART Mark I, Mark II and Mark III|
|Line length||36.4 km (22.6 mi)|
|Number of tracks||2|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
|Electrification||Third rail (Linear motor)|
|Operating speed||80 km/h (50 mph)|
The Expo Line is the oldest line of the SkyTrain rapid transit system in the Metro Vancouver region of British Columbia, Canada. The line is owned and operated by TransLink, and links Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and Surrey. The Expo Line is coloured dark blue on route maps.
The line was known as "SkyTrain" from its launch in 1985 until 2002, as it was the only line on the system during this time. It was given its present name in 2002 to differentiate it from Millennium Line, the second line on the SkyTrain system which was opened that year. It was named for Expo 86, the world's fair that Vancouver hosted in 1986, because it was built in large part to be ready for that fair and was an attraction of the fair.
From the opening of the Millennium Line to October 22, 2016, the Expo and Millennium Lines shared the same track alignment from Waterfront Station in Downtown Vancouver to Columbia Station in New Westminster. From there, the line splits, with the Expo Line crossing the Fraser River to Surrey.
Since October 22, 2016, a second branch has been added to the Expo Line route. This branch runs from Columbia to Production Way–University, making stops at Sapperton, Braid and Lougheed Town Centre respectively. Service between Waterfront and King George has not be affected.
The Expo Line travels underground from Waterfront to Stadium-Chinatown Stations, mainly through the Dunsmuir Tunnel, a tunnel that had been used by the Canadian Pacific Railway to connect its mainline tracks along Burrard Inlet to its former yard on False Creek.
The line is elevated from Stadium-Chinatown to New Westminster, except for short at-grade sections between Nanaimo and Joyce Stations in East Vancouver, and around the SkyTrain yards at Edmonds station in Burnaby.
The line travels underground for a short stretch between New Westminster and Columbia. Just east of Columbia Station is a junction with the newer Millennium Line. The line then crosses the Fraser River to Surrey via the Skybridge, and is elevated for the rest of its run to its terminus at King George. The track continues for about a block east of the King George station; this spur is currently used for parking unused cars, but is designed to hook up to any future eastern expansion of the Expo Line.
From just west of Nanaimo Station all the way to New Westminster Station, the Expo Line follows BC Electric's former Central Park Line, which carried interurbans between Vancouver and New Westminster from 1890 to the early 1950s.
ICTS demonstration project
What is now known as SkyTrain began as a demonstration project to showcase the newly developed linear induction propulsion technology to Vancouver and other prospective cities throughout the world. Although Toronto's Scarborough RT was completed before the Expo Line in 1985, the ICTS demonstration was the first system to use SkyTrain technology. The Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS) demonstration was built using the Advanced Rapid Transit (ART) technology developed by the Urban Transportation Development Corporation (now part of Bombardier). Construction began on March 1, 1982 and was completed in early 1983. The demonstration project consisted of just one station and about one kilometre of guideway with no switches. This original station was not "named" during this time as it was the only station, but then in 1985 opened as Main Street Station.
As it was a showcase station, Main Street has a different design from other stations on the Expo Line that came after it. For example, glass is featured in the station's design, but is missing from other future Expo Line stations (except Stadium Station, since it was tied to the Expo grounds). Having preceded other stations on the line by four years, Main Street-Science World was visibly older, and signs of rust and wear were showing before extensive renovations to the station took place in 2015.
The guideway for the showcase line was a straight section east of the station running over Terminal Avenue. It ended across from where the former Brussels Chocolate factory once was, located on Terminal. There was no guideway west of the station as the track ended immediately at the west end of the platform where the Vancity head office now stands.
The ICTS guideway was built differently from the rest of the Expo Line. The columns were different especially with how they are joined with the guideway. The walkway between the two tracks is of a different but also inferior design from the Expo Line, and it is showing signs of rust that come with the older age of the guideway.
There was only a single two-car train running on the north westbound track. After passengers boarded, it ran east toward the end of the test guideway. At the eastern end, the train would stop and after a pause, reverse directions and return to the station. Since there were no switches, only the northern track was used and the train would run back and forth on the same track. There was also a single car mock up parked on the south platform, what is now the eastbound platform. This car was not operational. The two-car train and single car mock up were of a different and unique design to all the production Mark I trains. The red tail lights were located on the bottom beside the headlights, instead of at the top. The end door and window were of a different design. As well, there were black panels on either side of the door, that are not found in the production trains. The whereabouts of these trains is unknown.
The ICTS guideway was retrofitted during the construction of the Millennium Line to accommodate the heavier weight Mark II cars. This was done by adding additional steel-reinforced concrete beams to the columns where they support the guideway. These are clearly visible when driving or walking on Terminal Avenue under the guideway. With the exception of the original ICTS guideway, no other part of the Expo Line required retrofitting for strength in order to accommodate the Mark II cars.
After the 1983 preview closed, the single pair of demonstration cars were sent back to Ontario, which have since served as test trains for the UTDC. The subsequent trains ordered for Expo were designed slightly differently from the demo train set because of issues such as a lack of standardized parts, and the wish to introduce automated computer technology to drive the trains.
Phase I - Waterfront Station to New Westminster Station
Following the demonstration project, construction of the first phase of the Expo Line between Vancouver and New Westminster got under way in mid-1983, with guideway construction nearing completion by late 1984, and station construction beginning in early 1985. On December 11, 1985, SkyTrain began providing free weekend service, with full revenue service opening on January 3, 1986. Phase I was 21.4 km in length, starting at Waterfront Station and terminating at New Westminster Station. The newly built system had limited Sunday service until 1990, and shorter revenue hours during weekdays than SkyTrain's current revenue schedule as of 2010.
During Expo 86, special shuttle trains ran from a third track at Stadium Station (where there was a connection to the monorail serving the main site of the world's fair) to the Canadian pavilion at Waterfront Station. Waterfront Station was divided in two, with a fence going down the centre of the platform. One side of the platform was used exclusively for the shuttles, and was accessible only from the Canada Place entrance, while the other side was only for revenue service and was only accessible from the main entrance to the east.
For the first few years of revenue service until the early 1990s, all trains were lined with carpeting, and train doors didn't open automatically, but rather at the push of buttons on the interior and exterior of the trains when docked in stations. This on-demand system reflected the small-scale ridership SkyTrain had before the city of Vancouver experienced a major population boost. Due to an inability to steadily maintain the carpeting, wax floors of the same colour were installed between 1992 and 1993.
In the planning of the original line, a proposed future station at Boundary Road and Kingsway, or "Boundary Station" was to be included to serve employees of BCTel. However, the proposal was scrapped largely due to a fear of the station attracting crime to the neighbourhood and noise-level concerns.
Phase II - Columbia Station and Scott Road Station
The first extension, or Phase II, was segmented into two parts. Construction began in 1987, with Columbia Station opening on February 14, 1989, adding the first 0.6 km of guideway in the City of New Westminster. The second segment opened on March 16, 1990, and included Scott Road Station in Surrey, crossing the Fraser River via the purpose-built, cable-stayed "Skybridge", adding 2.5 km to the line.
Phase III - Gateway Station to King George Station
Construction of a 4 km second extension, or Phase III, began in late 1991 and opened on March 24, 1994, introducing three stations into the Whalley area of the City of Surrey. Private partnerships with surrounding businesses in the community lead to the then new addition to taking on a different appearance in terms of station design from the rest of the Expo Line. This extension set the Expo Line's current eastbound terminus, King George Station.
The Provincial Transit Plan of 2008 included a 6-km extension of the Expo line from King George Station in Surrey east to Guildford, then along 152 Street to the Fraser Highway and southeast as far as 168 Street. In 2011, as part of phase 2 of the Surrey Rapid Transit Study, different possibilities have been examined for expanding rapid transit along multiple corridors in the South of Fraser region. In addition to SkyTrain, light rail and bus rapid transit are also in consideration.
Ridership on the Expo Line is continually increasing, and plans are being developed for upgrading capacity to meet future ridership levels. Several options are being considered and/or planned, including:
- Purchasing middle "C" cars to use with some of the Mark II/III trainsets to maximize available platform space. Current platforms can fit six-car Mark I trains and five-car Mark II/III trains. Six-car Mark I trains are more increasingly being used, but TransLink can only create two- and four-car Mark II trains with its fleet (2 or 2+2). By adding a middle "C" car to some Mark II/III couplets to create three-car trainsets, longer five-car trains can be used (2+3). As of December 2016, only the Mark-III vehicles employ the use of the middle "C" car, creating a four-car train.
- Operating headway between trains during peak times is maintained at 108 seconds. SkyTrain can run at 75 second headways, which will allow for more trains to operate at peak times.
- After using longer trains and running trains at 75-second headways, the next option is to lengthen the station platforms to accommodate longer trains. This expansion option will be the most expensive as it will require heavy construction at all Expo Line stations.
- On October 22, 2016, changes were made on the Expo and Millennium Lines to prepare for the opening of the Evergreen Extension. The Expo Line now has three terminus stations: Waterfront, King George, and Production Way–University. This added four new stations to the Line: Sapperton, Braid, Lougheed Town Centre and Production Way–University.
- "TransLink reports transit ridership heading for a new record". translink.ca. Retrieved November 10, 2016.
- "Changes Coming to SkyTrain October 22". TransLink. September 19, 2016. Retrieved September 19, 2016.
- Nagel, Jeff (January 16, 2008). "More SkyTrains for Surrey". Surrey North Delta Leader. Archived from the original on November 17, 2011. Retrieved February 21, 2008.
- "Rapid Transit Principles for the Broadway Corridor and the UBC Line Rapid Transit Study". TransLink. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
- "Skytrain, Vancouver's advanced rapid transit system". Thales Group. Retrieved November 17, 2011.
- "SkyTrain Schedule". Translink. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
- Johnston, Jesse (October 22, 2016). "SkyTrain network changes start today". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved October 27, 2016.