Master the Skytrain
Guide to Riding the Vancouver Skytrain...Like a Pro.
Greater Vancouver is unlike many other cities in North America, for example, Seattle, or New York, for the reason that people of every income bracket happily take public transit. Skytrains are clean, safe, and well managed, and are an affordable way to view the beauty Lower Mainland from above the trees. The best times for tourists to take the train on weekdays are between 9 am and 2 pm, in order to avoid rush hours, as well as after 6:30 pm, when fares are reduced for longer journeys.
Skytrain fares start at $3 for adults and $1.95 for children, high school students, and seniors. The Skytrain operates on a zone system, where passengers traveling through more than one zone are required pay a higher fare. It's best to plan journeys in advance and purchase the appropriate pass for the number of zones to be traveled in order to avoid being asked to pay for an exit fee to get through the gates. Gates are opened by tapping a Compass card, or Compass ticket, on the area covered by a blue sticker on the right hand side of the gate. Tapping the left hand side will open the wrong gate. It's important to note that transfer tickets bought on buses will not give access to Skytrains, but Compass tickets are valid payment for buses, so it's wise to purchase passes from Skytrain kiosks whenever possible.
Trips are best planned with Google Maps until passengers are more familiar with the city. However, familiarity with the three Skytrain lines, the transfer stations connecting them, and the stations where they split, is essential for planning a stress-free trip. There are three Skytrain Lines: the Expo Line, the Canada Line, and the Millennium Line.
Expo Line: For Destinations in Surrey, New Westminster, and Burquitlam
Split Station: Columbia
Transfer Stations: Waterfront, Commercial-Broadway, Production Way - University
The Expo Line is the oldest of the three lines and travels from Downtown Vancouver due SouthEast towards New Westminster and Surrey. The line splits at Columbia Station in New Westminster towards the District of Burquitlam, terminating at Production Way - University, with the other train continuing on to Surrey to terminate at King George Station. Both the King George and the Production Way - University trains can be caught from the same platform. When the train is arriving, you will be able to check which destination it's headed towards via a rectangular black screen with red lettering suspended from the station roof. If you're not able to see this screen, a voice on the intercom inside the train will announce the destination, giving you a chance to quickly disembark before the doors close.
Canada Line: For Tsawwassen, YVR Airport and Destinations in Richmond
Split Station: Bridgeport
Transfer Stations: Waterfront
The Canada Line is the only Skytrain Line that travels underground, and does so for most of the journey, only emerging after Langara-49th Station. The Line Splits into two at Bridgeport Station in the directions of YVR Airport and Richmond-Brighouse. Passengers can be certain they are on the right train (both trains are accessed from the same platform) by consulting the black screen with red lettering on the station roof, or listening for the announcement once inside the train, which relays the terminal station right before the doors close.
Passengers destined for Tsawwassen and the Ferry to Victoria should exit the train at Bridgeport Station. Take the stairs all the way to the ground and board the 620 bus in the bus loop.
Millennium Line: For Destinations in North Burnaby and Coquitlam
Split Station: None
Transfer Stations: Commercial-Broadway, Production Way - University
The Millennium line connects to the Expo Line at both ends via Commercial- Broadway Station and Production Way - University Station, creating a loop that encloses most of East Vancouver and Burnaby. Transferring at Production Way is made simple; a single platform serves both the Expo and Millennium Lines. Check the red and black screen for the destination of the train. If it says Waterfront, the train arriving on the platform is an Expo Line train, whereas if it says Lafarge Lake - Douglas, the train will continue on along the Evergreen Extension. Marked in green and yellow on most Skytrain maps, the Evergreen Extension is the portion of the Millennium Line that serves Coquitlam, and is not its own line, although you will hear it commonly called the Evergreen Line.
Tip: To save time, passengers headed to Waterfront Station and Metro Vancouver should not take the train from Production Way which terminates at Waterfront. Instead, they are advised to take the Millenium Line train destined for VCC Clark, and transfer to the Expo Line at Commercial-Broadway Station.
Fun Fact: The Compas Card gets its' name from the words 'computerized + pass'.