SkyTrain's Canada Line ridership projected to soar this decade

Mar 2 2020, 6:33 pm

Ridership growth on SkyTrain’s Canada Line is expected to continue at an exceptionally strong pace, with TransLink forecasting a 16% increase in ridership by the end of the decade.

The Canada Line is projected to see 56.4 million annual boardings by 2030 — up from 48.7 million during 2018’s full set of data, according to TransLink.

A breakdown of ridership forecasts by day type is unavailable, but if the 16% increase is applied across the board, it translates to average 2030 ridership levels of 171,000 on weekdays (up from 147,700 in 2018), 131,000 on Saturdays (up from 113,200 in 2018), and 108,500 on Sundays and holidays (up from 93,700 in 2018).

But these projections can be considered highly conservative, given the Canada Line’s immense success with attracting ridership.

The Canada Line has consistently far exceeded its ridership targets.

During the planning phase more than a decade ago, this SkyTrain line was originally projected to reach 120,000 daily boardings by 2025. In actuality, it achieved this ridership figure in 2012 — just three years after its August 2009 opening in time for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

In 2019, the Canada Line saw average weekday boardings of 150,000, and it was the first year the system saw over 50 million annual boardings.

Here are some major turning points for the Canada Line over the coming decade that are likely to boost ridership even further:

2020: New additional trains

Capacity increases from the introduction of new additional trains this year will meet latent demand that was previously curbed by overcrowding.

Several new trains are already operating, but by later this spring all 12 new additional two-car trains — a total of 24 new additional cars — will enter service, increasing peak capacity by about 35% compared to 2019 levels.

With trains running up to one minute more frequently, this increases the system’s peak capacity to over 8,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd) from about 6,000 pphpd last year.

A higher capacity and a more comfortable passenger experience from reduced overcrowding could be another major driver for ridership.

2022: Opening of Capstan Station

Construction on the new additional Capstan Station — located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Capstan Way and No. 3 Road in Richmond, roughly midway between Bridgeport Station and Aberdeen Station — is slated to begin late 2020 or early 2021 for an opening in the middle of 2022. Both TransLink and the City of Richmond confirmed the $31.5-million project late last year.

Canada Line Capstan Way Station

Artistic rendering depicting the location of the Canada Line’s new Capstan Way Station near the intersection of Capstan Way and No. 3 Road. This rendering depicts the general form and location of the station, not the actual design. (GBL Architects)

New developments within close walking proximity provide Capstan Station with a catchment area of up to 16,000 residents, along with new jobs from new retail, restaurants, and office.

2025: Broadway-City Hall Station interchange with Millennium Line

Overnight in 2025, upon the opening of SkyTrain’s Broadway Extension reaching Arbutus Street, Broadway-City Hall Station will become a major regional transit hub from its transformation into an interchange between the Canada Line and Millennium Line.

The newly built 5.7-km-long, six-station section of Millennium Line between VCC-Clark Station and the new Arbutus Station is expected to see 140,000 boardings per day immediately — a staggering figure equivalent to the entirety of the Canada Line’s average 2017 weekday ridership.

Canada Line SkyTrain Broadway-City Hall Station

Broadway-City Hall on SkyTrain’s Canada Line. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

Data provided by the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure shows Broadway-City Hall Station is forecast to see 2,100 passenger boardings and 3,500 passenger alightings during the morning weekday peak period from 7:30 am to 8:30 am. This includes the volumes from passengers entering and exiting the street entrance, and the passengers transferring inside the station’s fare paid zone between the Canada Line and Millennium Line platforms.

Given the expected foot traffic volumes, the provincial government states the Canada Line platforms at this station will be expanded from 40 metres to 50 metres.

SkyTrain Millennium Line Broadway Extension Subway Broadway-City Hall Station

October 2019 preliminary conceptual cross-section artistic rendering of Broadway-City Hall Station’s interchange between the Millennium Line and existing Canada Line. (Government of BC)

New strong vertical circulation connections — underground pathways, concourse areas, staircases, escalators, and elevators — to be completed as part of the Broadway Extension project will turn Broadway-City Hall into a machine that can accommodate future ridership flows. This includes a large underground mezzanine level above the Millennium Line platform level.

For context, the average 2019 weekday morning peak hour volumes at Commercial-Broadway Station in 2019 were 2,500 boardings and 2,700 alightings based on fare gate data, and an estimated 3,700 cross platform transfers between the Expo Line and Millennium Line. Moreover, there were about 31,000 transfers between the Expo Line and Millennium Line platforms at Commercial-Broadway Station on an average 2019 weekday.

2025 and onwards: New developments

Some of the largest development projects along the Canada Line will be largely complete by the middle of the decade, including the redevelopments of Westbank’s Oakridge Centre and CF Richmond Centre.

Other major redevelopments of Onni Group’s Pearson Dogwood and Concert Properties’ Langara Gardens will also be in various phases of construction. The expansive site-wide redevelopment of Lansdowne Mall should also be well underway after the midway point of the decade.

Lansdowne District at Lansdowne Centre

Artistic rendering of Lansdowne District, the redevelopment of Lansdowne Mall, in Richmond. (Vanprop Investments Ltd.)

Other major considerations entail the numerous small-to-mid-sized redevelopments along the Cambie Street Corridor and No. 3 Road Corridor, and strong office worker growth in downtown Vancouver fuelled by the expansion of the tech industry.

Additionally, other factors that will add to Canada Line ridership include improved bus connections that feed into the stations, and continued air passenger growth at Vancouver International Airport (YVR). Currently, 21% of all YVR passengers use the Canada Line for their journey to or from the airport.