Relief from overcrowding on all three SkyTrain lines will be coming in a few short years after TransLink updated its plans this morning for new train orders.
During a media event at the Canada Line’s operations and maintenance centre near Bridgeport Station, the public transit authority announced it will accelerate its order of train cars by ordering 80 cars that will arrive by late-2020.
“With the very strong demand in our system and the crowding that exists, we want to make it a priority to get relief for our customers as quickly as possible,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “We’re able to do this by accelerating some of the federal money that was planned for later expenditures, so we have a very strong commitment from the federal and provincial governments to help us make that happen.”
This means the Expo and Millennium lines will receive 28 new generation Bombardier Mark III cars by early-2019 – as previously announced as part of the Phase One train expansion plan – and an additional 28 additional Mark III cars by the end of 2019 for a total of 56 new Mark III cars.
This second batch will come three years ahead of schedule, as it was originally planned as part of a Phase Two order of 72 cars between 2022 and 2024 to add new capacity in time for the opening of the Millennium Line’s Broadway extension and replace some of the aging Expo-era Mark I cars, which will be gradually retired beginning in 2026.
However, passengers on the Canada Line will have to wait about a year longer than previously planned for more cars on the system between downtown Vancouver, YVR Airport, and Richmond. An order of 24 cars for the Canada Line was scheduled for late-2019, but those trains will now arrive by the end of 2020 instead.
TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond stated today the trains will be manufactured by South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem, which also built the Canada Line’s first 40 cars. The order was recently finalized by the Canada Line’s private operator ProTrans BC, a division of SNC Lavalin.
The new cars will increase capacity on the train systems significantly, with a 10% increase on the Expo Line, 23% increase for the Millennium Line, and 30% increase for the Canada Line. It is equal to a capacity increase of 8,200 passengers per hour per peak direction on all three lines.
“This is a very significant capacity improvement to SkyTrain. This means greater comfort and convenience for our customers, and they will see the difference during their commutes as they are experiencing crowding now,” continued Desmond. “There will be shorter wait times on the system.”
“More SkyTrain cars means increased frequency, reducing pass-ups and wait times for our customers. Our customers during certain portions of the day at certain stations are often being passed up by overcrowded trains.”
These orders will cost a total of $298 million from the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, with $210 million for the order for the Expo and Millennium lines and $88 million for the Canada Line. The federal government is funding 50% while the provincial government and TransLink are coming in at 33% and 17%, respectively.
New trains are needed to meet rapidly growing demand on the SkyTrain system, which is partially fuelled by new redevelopments around stations and the 2016 opening of the Evergreen extension.
Last year, the Expo and Millennium lines saw a 12% increase in ridership while the Canada Line had an uptick of 6%. Overall, the transit system saw record ridership growth in 2017.