The Vancouver area’s newest Sky Train addition, the Canada Line, will open a couple of months ahead of schedule: August instead of late November. The Canada Line was built in two parts, the first is a mostly cut-and-cover, partly deep-bored subway from Downtown Vancouver to almost the Fraser River, with seven new subway stations and one new subway platform at an existing station. The second part is a mostly elevated segment from the Fraser River toward the Vancouver Airport and Richmond, with eight more stations. The total line length is 19 km (11.8 miles).
All-in-all, it’s been pretty impressive how the line has gone from approval to near completion in just over four years, but obviously the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics have helped the project get quick approval. The $1.5 billion price tag for the line is mind-bogglingly cheap. For comparison, the University Link project has a $1.8 billion price tag. However, the line’s construction has not been without controversy, especially because the cut-and-cover construction for the subway line has much more invasive on the surface than the deep-bored solution that Sound Transit is using for our subway tunnels.
The Canada line is also a lower-capacity system compared to both Link and to Sky Train’s Expo and Millenium Lines. Canada Line’s station platforms are only 40 m (131 ft) long, and can only accomodate one long car at a time. For comparison, Portland’s Max has platforms that are 60 m (200 ft) long, and Link’s platforms are 110 m (370 ft) long. Portland’s stations and trains feel short, I anticapate that the Canada line will run into capacity problems in the future.
Even having said all of that, it’s remarkable that Translink, Vancouver and BC have been able to build a line that’s mostly underground and elevated with 16 stations with a price tag in the $100~$150 million per mile range. Shows that they are definitely doing something different up there than we are here.