Vancouver Public Transit And Translink Overview

Getting around Vancouver can be a bit confusing and costly if you do not know the basics of the Vancouver public transit system. This is regardless of whether exploring Vancouver for the first time as a tourist or simply visiting the city for a business meeting. This article will teach you everything you need to know about Translink, the skytrain system, and our busses. If you were hoping on using Uber for your trip, think again. Unfortunately, there is no Uber in Vancouver. Stay tuned until the article, we will cover some popular ridesharing options.

When planning a trip to Vancouver, Vancouver Island is a big appeal. The big island is home to the capital of BC and many other exciting cities. The public transit system also encompasses the BC Ferries. Getting around to Vancouver island and the other neighbouring islands is simple through BC Ferries.

What is Translink?

Thankfully this beautiful city has a convenient as well as a fully accessible public transit system. The Translink system gives affordable options to explore the city. Through this system, you can explore most of the city’s popular attractions. This system is run by Translink, which is the regional authority of Metro Vancouver.

Its network of public transit system consists of buses, the SeaBus, the SkyTrain, a cross-harbor ferry line, and the West Coast Express train facility running monthly during peak hours. These networks span in different directions and cover various sights at attractive fares.

The Translink transportation guide revealing the latest schedules, planning apps, and fare details is available on its official Website. Still, in this guide, you will get a basic idea of these networks.

Using the Translink System to Get Around the City Effectively

The SkyTrain network is the automated fast system split into the Canada Line (North-South), Expo (East-West), and Millennium (Loop, East-West). All of them operate from 5 am to 1 am. You can easily get a Translink SkyTrain map on its official site.

  • CanadaLine: Runs from downtown Waterfront station to Airport and Richmond Centre. The trains keep alternating between these two terminals. Regardless of the route, the total travel time is approximately 25 minutes. While all downtown stations are underground, the destined stations are raised. The platform at the Waterfront station is connected with Expo and Millennium SkyTrain lines, Seabus, West Coast Express, and helicopter stations via a small tunnel ending at the big entry passageway of the old CPR Station. Some of the most popular stations on this line is Entertainment District at Georgia Street, City Hall, Aberdeen Centre, and Oakridge Centre. During peak hours, these trains run every four to six minutes. Other times, the frequency is less.
  • Expo Line: Is the origin of SkyTrain, which refers to a metro in the sky. It travels from downtown to Surrey via King George station and total time it takes is 40 minutes. Downtown stations here are at the ground level or underground and the rest are raised. Through this line, you can easily reach famous regions such as The Drive, Chinatown, Pacific Central Station (rail or bus connection), Metrotown, New Westminster, and Science World also known as the Main Street Station.
  • Millenium Line: Runs from downtown to Burnaby and comes back to the city with the last stop of Clark Station via Columbia. It has stops common with the Expo Line until Columbia (30 minutes) after which it turns to the north towards Lougheed Mall Station and again meets the Expo at Broadway before terminating at Clark. You need to join Expo from Broadway to reach downtown Vancouver via a pedestrian bridge. These trains travel in both ways, there is no one-way track. Most stations on this line are raised.
  • Both the Expo and Millenium trains stop at Science World from where a quick 4-minute stroll takes you to Pacific Central. This is where you can catch an intercity bus or an Amtrak facility.

Other Translink Services:

The SeaBus is a ferry service giving you a spectacular view during its 12-minute crossing. It goes from downtown Waterfront to North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay known for its public market. SeaBus refers to a passenger-only watercraft accommodating 400 people.  

For using the SeaBus facility, you need to get the ticket before entering the terminal. The big electronic displays both in the interior and exterior of the terminal show the time remaining until the next coming SeaBus. A SeaBus leaves in every 15 minutes in the daytime and every 30 minutes at night.

Buses across the metro area run from 5 am to 1 am. There are also night busses that run after one. West Vancouver has its own system called the Blue Buses, which offer an express ride between Vancouver and the Horseshoe Bay terminal of BC Ferries.

Knowing the Translink Fares

A single fare structure applies for all of the aforementioned Translink networks. Following are the options to consider:

  • Compass Card: Allows for pay as you move traveling with a deposit of $6, which is refundable and a stored value. Fares are computed by tapping in and out at the SkyTrain and Seabus stations. For buses, only tapping in is allowed and exact fare is required in terms of coins. This calls for a one zone ticket across all zones starting at $1.75. Tapping out finally shows the card balance. Look for Concession and Adult cards, which you can reload at a Compass Vending Machine at BC Ferries terminal and stations.
  • Compass Tickets: Are single fare tickets available from a CVM. Regular adult fares applicable on weekdays are $2.75 for one zone and $5.50 for three, which is valid before 6:30 pm. Concession fares for children (5 and 13) and seniors (65+) are $1.75 and $3.75 respectively. On weekends, holidays, and after 6:30, the fare for adults across all zones is $2.75, while the concession fare is $1.75.
  • Credit Card: As of the summer of 2018, you can use your Visa or Mastercard.

These fares are valid for 1 hour 30 minutes within the acquired zone. Luckily, there are no limitations on transfers.

Using Public Transit to Reach Grouse Mountain

Grouse is a popular resort in North Vancouver offering the best view of the city from the famous aerial Skyride tram. However, it is the Grouse Grind that attracts more people.

It is an adrenaline trail with a rugged and steep route from the north plateau to the magnificent Grouse mountain peak. The 2.9 km long trail has around 2,800 steps and takes 1 hour to complete. Once you are at the top there are gondola rides to the bottom. It is a beautiful view of the city you have to see.

Getting to Grouse via public transit is simple and highly recommended, due to it’s quickness and ease of access. Simply catch the SeaBus and get down at Lonsdale Quay from where #236 bus takes 25 minutes to get to the mountain base. To save money, buy a return ticket too if you are taking a single-trip Compass ticket.

A Special Mention about BC Ferries for Reaching the Beautiful Garden City, Victoria

bc ferries

Looking for a Vancouver to Victoria ferry? The BC ferries is an affordable and quick public utility reachable by Translink system. The different routes for these ferries connect Horseshoe Bay in the West to Departure Bay for reaching Langdale, Bowen Island, and Nanaimo. From the Tsawwassen terminal, these ferries pass by the Swartz Bay for Victoria, different Gulf islands in the south, and Duke Point for Nanaimo.

A bus or a CanadaLine metro can take you to Tsawwassen from the downtown. In West or North Van, a Blue Bus links the downtown to Horseshoe Bay. Public buses or bus #70 also run between downtown Victoria and Swartz Bay. Additionally, the ferry has a separate fee than other public transit systems. 

Uber in Vancouver – What You Need to Know

uber in vancouver

If you came here wondering if you can use Uber in Vancouver, the short answer to this question is no. You can not currently use Uber in British Columbia. However, Ubereats is in Vancouver, and Uber has said they would like to get their ride hailing service into Vancouver in 2018. If you happen to make your trek to Vancouver before then, fear not! There are plenty of alternatives to Uber in the city that make it easy to get around town.

Why Isn’t Uber in Vancouver?

Uber is not legal across BC, not just Vancouver. So if you are in Vancouver, Penticton, or Whistler, you aren’t going to find anything. In the city of Vancouver alone, the taxi’s have met uber with large backlash. This has led to some delay in implementing google. On top of this, the municipality of Vancouver has often said the decision lies at the provincial level. So long story short, nobody has come up with a solution to implement it province wide without hurting the existing taxi business.

Are there any alternatives to Uber?

What is very popular in Vancouver is to use a ride-sharing program instead. For example, car2go or evocar have gained a big user base in the past couple of years and are the perfect way to get around town as a local. As far as I can tell by looking at their website, it looks like tourists can sign up for Car2Go or Evocar and access them during their time in Vancouver. I would definitely recommend signing up for both of them if you are able to. Both offer free minutes to those that sign up, and they are extremely easy to use. They have a wide coverage area, and parking is very easy, especially if you are going downtown. If you can’t drive, don’t feel like driving, cab’s are very prominent in Vancouver. In my personal opinion, I don’t really think cabs are needed (they do have their time and place) for getting around Vancouver on a day to day basis. The Canada line can get you anywhere going from Richmond to Downtown, and the Skytrain can take you to the nearby cities outside of Vancouver.

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Hello There! My name is Oscar and I am the author and creator of this website. I have lived in Vancouver my whole life (42 years) and want to share some city tips with everyone. When I am not working I like to explore my town and the surrounding areas. My passions include hockey, hiking, and swimming! If you want to know more about Vancouver and myself, check out our ‘About Us’ page