On December 2, British Columbia’s Lower Mainland welcomed the latest SkyTrain extension, the long-awaited Evergreen Extension to the Tri-Cities area (Port Moody, Coquitlam, and Port Coquitlam) east of Simon Fraser University. The extension covers 6.8 miles in 15 minutes, roughly the same average speed as Link (27 mph). Most of the line is at-grade or elevated, but there is a short (and controversial) 1.3 mile tunnel in between Burquitlam and Port Moody Stations. The extension makes SkyTrain both the longest grade-separated transit system in Canada (edging Toronto), and the longest fully automated system in the world (edging Dubai).
From a network perspective, the extension operates as the Millennium Line, allowing TransLink to end the loop-de-loop that the line made from 2006-2016, doubling back on itself and serving Commercial/Broadway Station twice. Though the inefficiency of stopping just short of the Canada Line will continue, the Millennium Line will now make more sense as a linear line, operating from Lafarge Lake/Douglas to VCC/Clark. The extension will also offer the first two intermodal transfers to West Coast Express commuter rail outside of Downtown Vancouver, at Moody Centre and Coquitlam Central.
To cover the 2 stations between New Westminster (Braid and Sapperton) that would have otherwise lost service, TransLink has created a new branch of the Expo line. The traditional line from Waterfront to King George in Surrey is now complemented by trains from Waterfront to Production Way/University.
Much like the Canada Line, the new Millennium Line will use tiny 2-car trains but at very high frequencies, every 3-4 minutes during peak, 6 minutes off-peak, and 10 minutes at night. Meanwhile, the Expo Line will run every 2-3 minutes during peak on the shared segments between Waterfront and Columbia, with service roughly every 3-4 minutes to King George and every 6 minutes to Production Way/University. The new branch of the Expo line is every third train during peak, and every other train off-peak.
The new network also offers a strange but elegant platform layout where the lines converge at Lougheed Town Centre. Between Lougheed and Burquitlam, Millennium Line trains will crossover and run on the opposite tracks (see 12:35 in the video above). Outbound Millennium Line trains will stop at a new island platform (Platform 3), while the pre-existing centre platform will be shared by the outbound Expo Line (Platform 2), the inbound Millennium Line (Platform 2), and the inbound Expo Line (Platform 1). This is done to facilitate same-platform transfers between Coquitlam and New Westminster.
Though SkyTrain is highly regarded for its frequency and reliability, it shares the suburban biases of most North American systems, underserving the City of Vancouver. But if you want to see a best-case scenario for TOD for Federal Way or Lynnwood, TransLink’s extension offer a hopeful glimpse of Towers in the Park(ing lot).