5 things you (probably) didn’t know about public transit in Vancouver

For over 120 years, public transit has helped people get around Vancouver.

Before cars were commonplace on the roads, when horses and buggies still dominated the streets, streetcars arrived in Vancouver. Since those early coins helped people move, the system has transformed and grown to help people move.

There have been plenty of “did you know that” moments over this period, and we’ve rounded up a few that hopefully are obscure enough that you can say “I didn’t know that!”

1. Vancouver’s early transit companies also turned on the lights

To be fair, electric lighting was new and rare in 1890s Vancouver, so the company didn’t use too many lights, but they made sure they were lit the same way.

At the time, the business was the Vancouver Electric Railway and Light Company (VERLC), after a merger between two specialist companies before municipal rail really got going. It only lasted a few years before VERLC went bankrupt and was consolidated with the failing Victoria and New Westminster railway and light companies to become the Consolidated Railway Company. Then it failed.

The BC Electric Railway Company was then founded and the two different electric services went their separate ways.

2. Trolleybus drivers didn’t need a license until 1973

First, let’s explain that Vancouver has an extensive trolleybus network; they are the ones that hang on wires powered by electricity. Translink has over 260 in Vancouver.

And, until 1973, you didn’t need a license to drive one, although traffic in 1970s Vancouver was serious business.

It was because they were replacing the old streetcars that ran on rails. Since they did not have their own fuel source, they were considered rail vehicles (although they had rubber tires and ran on roads). Regulations have changed and all current cart drivers have licenses.

3. The heated dome was so hot it slowed down the SkyTrain

One of the metrics by which Translink measures success is on-time (OTP); it’s basically the percentage of time that public transit is on time. The target is 96.5%, which SkyTrain has achieved for 15 consecutive months starting in March 2020. This ended in June 2021.

What broke this streak?

“June punctuality was affected by the extreme heat experienced at the end of the month,” explains Translink in a 2021 report. high running rail temperatures. Reducing train speeds limits the amount of heat transferred from one train to another.”

True, the rails were getting too hot, which is a very bad thing.

June was down to 95.2%, which isn’t bad, but let’s remember that the heat dome didn’t happen until the end of the month; most of the month it was operating at or above the norm.

4. Vancouver’s public transit system has held a few records, but they’re falling

At one time, Vancouver’s transit system held two world records. The SkyTrain system was the only (at first) and largest driverless system in the world for decades, but it has recently been overtaken by several Asian cities (and no, the Broadway expansion won’t help Vancouver get back on track). first).

At the same time, the Skybridge was the longest cable-supported transit bridge in the world (also, fun fact, it was built in part by Hyundai, the same company that puts things like Elantras and, before that, Ponys on the road). The bridge between New Westminster and Surrey is 616m long and from its construction until 2019 it was good enough for the record. Then Chongqing built a bigger one.

There is at least one other record held by Vancouver’s transit system; line 99-B is the busiest bus line in Canada or the United States. However, this disc contains a clock because the Broadway subway line is being built for this exact reason.

5. One of the precursors to the SeaBus became a North Vancouver restaurant until it was literally scrapped

Vancouver’s SeaBus is perhaps the most fun part of the city’s public transit system. Small public passenger boats are a rare sight in most urban settings; Sure, there are harbor ferries everywhere, but few are an essential part of suburban infrastructure.

Ferries of some kind have long crossed Burrard Inlet (except for a period in the 1960s when bridges were sufficient).

One of five boats (Ferry No. 5) that traveled through the 1940s and 1950s ceased service in 1958 and was quickly transformed into a floating restaurant on the water off North Vancouver. Service continued for 40 years (more than double its time as a ferry) until it closed in 2001. The ship was scrapped in 2002.

Do you have any other fun facts about public transit? Let me know; [email protected]

About Kevin Strickland

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