Getting from YVR airport to Vancouver on the new Canada Line train

21Oct09

While visiting Vancouver last week, I had the opportunity to ride the Canada Line train from the YVR airport to downtown Vancouver. This was my first experience with Vancouver’s SkyTrain system, and I came away quite impressed. Here are some of the things they’re doing right, along with a few areas where they could improve.

The good:

– The train station is very close to the airport: just walk out the doors from the main concourse, cross the street, and you’re there.
– The train cars are clean and modern, with wide aisles and big windows at the end of each car. (Looking out the front window made it feel like a ride at Epcot Center!)
– It’s so quiet on the train that you can talk at a normal volume, and maybe even at a whisper.
– Compared to taking a cab, the Canada Line is vastly cheaper. Even when they add the airport surcharge next year, the cost advantage should remain significant.

The bad:

– While the train station is close to the airport terminal, you have to walk outside to get there. It rains a lot in Vancouver, so they should find a way to cover that walkway.
– Exterior signage, at least at the Vancouver City Centre station, was incomplete. One sign said “YVR” instead of “YVR airport”, which is likely to confuse people who think of it as the Vancouver airport or are just looking for the word “airport”.
– The ticketing kiosks are really hard to use. Instead of asking where you’re going, they present the ticket choices in terms of how many “zones” you will be crossing. And the process for buying more than one ticket is confusing, too. They should just ask how many people are traveling, rather than force you to hunt for the right menu option.
– There is no way to buy future day tickets at the kiosks. Apparently, you can buy a bulk pack at various retail stores, but every ticket from the kiosk expires 90 minutes after purchase. Needless to say, the lack of advance purchase options leads to added anxiety (and probably long lines) during peak travel periods.

I suspect that many of my concerns will be addressed over time, and the Canada Line will continue to improve. Overall, the new train system is a huge asset to Vancouver, and something to look forward to if you’re visiting the city.



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