Passengers who regularly use the Expo and Millennium lines, including the Evergreen extension, will see some relief from overcrowding beginning this week through the implementation of longer peak period service and more frequent trains at other times of the day.
TransLink says SkyTrain service improvements under the Mayors’ Council’s Phase One plan for transit improvements have already begun with weekday peak level service now ending 15 minutes later in the morning peak period and lasting one hour longer in the evening peak period.
This provides a relatively modest capacity increase of 3,700 passengers per direction on the Expo Line from Columbia to Waterfront stations. As well, the busiest section of the Expo Line from Commercial-Broadway to Waterfront stations has seen a capacity increase of 400 passengers per direction per weekday in the morning – equivalent to one four-car train load – in addition to the aforementioned systemwide increase.
There is also an uptick in capacity on the Millennium Line from VCC-Clark to Lafarge Lake-Douglas stations with 2,200 additional passengers per direction per weekday.
These combined capacity increases have increased the overall weekday capacity of both lines by 2.5%.
The most significant changes to the capacities of the Expo and Millennium lines will be during the weekend as train frequencies have been boosted to every 3 minutes to 6 minutes during mid-day hours and early-evenings. This matches the off-peak frequency of the lines on weekdays.
As a result, the overall capacity of the Expo Line from Columbia to Waterfront will increase by 15,200 passengers per direction per weekend day, and 7,600 passengers per direction per weekend day on each Expo Line branch from Columbia to Production Way-University stations and from Columbia to King George stations.
On the Millennium Line, the service frequency increase is equivalent to an additional 4,000 passengers per direction per weekend day.
To provide some perspective on what these daily weekend capacity increases mean, the Expo Line’s peak hour capacity per direction per hour (pphpd) is approximately 15,000 pphpd.
There is not much that TransLink can do to increase the weekday capacities of the Expo and Millennium lines during peak hours as nearly every available train on the system will already be operating.
“In terms of capacity management, we are going to be limited by our fleet. That’s just a reality,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond during a press conference today. “When we did the service pattern change in October, that was intended to spread out the fleet as best as we can between the Expo and Millennium lines.”
“Once we see the numbers, if we can make tweaks here and there, we’ll be able to do that. But the service improvements we are announcing today are going to help some of that capacity.”
TransLink received 28 new generation Mark III cars connected into seven four-car articulated trains last summer and made another order of 28 cars in the fall. However, the second round of additional Mark III cars are not expected to arrive until the end of 2018.
“Until then, I think we’ll just have to manage as best as we can around the shoulders of the peak periods on the Expo and Millennium lines,” said Desmond.
He also added that the Commercial-Broadway Station interchange will remain a pinch point due to higher passenger foot traffic, but the $60 million upgrade project to construct an additional inbound platform and new and wider pedestrian overpasses is not scheduled for a completion until this fall.
The public transit authority previously stated that foot traffic at Commercial-Broadway Station will rise by 25% when the Evergreen extension is operational.
Peak hour frequencies on the Canada Line also picked up this week to the maximum level possible by using all 20 two-car trains on that rail system.
As for SeaBus, the ferry service now operates every 15 minutes from 10 am to 7 pm on Sundays and holidays. Sailing frequencies will be increased to every 15 minutes anytime of the day, seven days a week, later this year when TransLink has hired more trained staff.
And last month, the public transit authority upgraded the the 135 route between downtown Vancouver and Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Mountain campus into a more reliable 95 B-Line service.
Additionally, the public consultation phases for both the underground SkyTrain extension of the Millennium Line along Broadway and the new Surrey light rail transit network begin at the end of this month.
Desmond added that TransLink will likely have the first accurate ridership figures on the 11-km-long, six-station Evergreen extension of the Millennium Line next month.
“We’re waiting until the beginning of February,” he said. “As you know the service started on December 2, and the bus routes changed on December 19 the week before Christmas. And the next few weeks were affected by the weather and snow.”
“I think the first really good numbers on how exactly the marketplace and how our customers are responding to the service this month.”