Yup, hard to believe it's been that long already.
In December 2016, the Evergreen Extension line officially launched its six stations across Port Moody and Coquitlam, completing a $1.3-billion project that added more transit options for local residents.
Since the grand opening, customers have been able to get to all Evergreen stations by foot or by bus from six key neighbourhoods aimed to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.
According to TransLink — before the COVID-19 pandemic took effect in 2020 — about 32,000 people boarded this particular section of SkyTrain during peak ridership hours on weekdays.
During its first three years, TransLink says the Evergreen Extension, which acts as an add-on to the Millennium Line, saw a 19 per cent year-over-year ridership increase, calling it one of the more popular modes of transportation in the entire region.
And while ridership took a hit because of the pandemic, it has climbed back to 57 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
A LOOK BACK
The Evergreen Extension was first announcedin March 2013 when the then federal and provincial governments committed funding to create jobs, invest in local communities and add more SkyTrain stations.
The purpose was to connect places like Port Moody, Coquitlam and even Burnaby with the entire Metro Vancouver area.
As to who paid for the project, it was broken down as follows:
- Provincial government = $586 million
- Federal government = $424 million
- TransLink = $400 million
According to TransLink's trip planner, it takes roughly 20 minutes to commute between Lougheed Town Centre and the end of the extension, which takes a rider above, at and below ground at different points along the way.
The names of the stations were decided long before the official launch — Burquitlam, Moody Centre, Inlet Centre, Coquitlam Central, Lincoln and Lafarge Lake-Douglas — and have become synonymous with Tri-City transit the last half decade.
"The opening of the extension heralded a new era for SkyTrain services around the region, as the Expo and Millennium Lines were untangled and reconfigured into the routes we know today, allowing for greater operational flexibility, with the lines now running largely independently of one another," TransLink's Buzzer Blog reads in a post about the five-year anniversary.
"The opening of the line also provided more direct interchanges with another service, the West Coast Express. This made the Tri-Cities area a key transfer hub and allowed for customers to be flexible in how they moved through the region."
During its first two months on the rails, the Evergreen Extension showed promising numbers.
In an earlier release, the service estimated roughly 150,000 people utilized the first eight weeks of the Tri-Cities SkyTrain with 20 per cent of the trips within the region.
By the end of the three-month mark, TransLink averaged 30,000 daily boardings.
Then B.C. Premier Christy Clark was on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Dec. 2, 2016, along with representatives of the Kwikwetlem First Nation, the then MLA responsible for TransLink Peter Fassbender, federal politicians, then Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay and Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart.
TransLink recently completed a survey asking all Metro Vancouver residents how they envision the next 30 years of transit across their communities.
Among popular Tri-City topics are extending SkyTrain stations in Port Moody and Port Coquitlam so more people can access public transit in increasingly-populated neighbourhoods.
In October, Port Moody city council decided it will pursue discussions with TransLink about the feasibility and funding options for a possible third SkyTrain station in the city.
There's a significant stretch between the Burquitlam and Moody Centre stations, but most of it is underground and some councillors aren’t optimistic it’ll bear much fruit.
A recent consultant’s report stated that while a station at Queens Street or further west could be built, it might cost up to $100 million depending on the complexity of the construction project.
Allison Clavelle, a transportation engineer and principal at consulting company Urban Systems, said in her report that while the SkyTrain guideway that runs through Port Moody was originally designed to accommodate a future station at Queens Street, its proximity to the nearby existing station at Moody Centre likely means it wouldn’t generate much additional ridership.
"We have not maximized potential ridership at either of the two stations we already have," Coun. Diana Dilworth said, while Coun. Amy Lubik pondered whether the city should consider other amenities first.
"What else do we need in the city?" she asked. "We need to have conversations about priorities."
Mayor Rob Vagramov explained, at this preliminary stage, the idea is still worthy of further exploration.
"It’s not something that’s completely impossible,” he said. “We know it’s doable. Now we need to find out if it’s feasible."
Meanwhile, Port Coquitlam is hoping the Metro Vancouver authority can include its urban centre as a possible spot for a SkyTrain station.
The issue came up in late September when Metro 2050 was drafted — a road map for absorbing what could be one million more residents to the Lower Mainland over the next three decades.
Since their first look, Port Coquitlam councillors raised a number of hot-button issues as the plan envisions a 15 per cent target for affordable housing, including rental housing, along major transit growth corridors.
But some are scratching their heads how that will work along Lougheed Highway — identified as a major transit growth corridor — where opportunities for more density are limited by the CPR tracks to the south.
"Without SkyTrain coming to downtown Port Coquitlam where we have tonnes of possibilities it would be a struggle to reach the percentage [of affordable housing] close to those transit corridors," noted Coun. Glen Pollock.
New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Coté, who is chair of TransLink Mayors' Council and participated in the Sept. 28 meeting, said future technology for the Lougheed Highway major transit corridor is still up for discussion.
"From Port Coquitlam’s perspective definitely that Lougheed corridor that touches on your town centre is connected there. That is the link that is supposed to help the cities connect their land use plans with their projections, and sure, right now it’s a rapid bus line but it could mean higher technology, light rail or SkyTrain."
Metro Vancouver officials who spoke told councillors the 15 per cent target for affordable housing along transit lines was regional, not city-specific, and affordable housing could be built in other areas as well.
As for the city’s SkyTrain ask, that would be better targeted toward TransLink, which is doing its own long-range planning with Transport 2050, councillors were told.
Currently, the closest SkyTrain station in proximity to Port Coquitlam is Coquitlam Central, which is accessible by bus or West Coast Express.
- with files from Mario Bartel, Janis Cleugh and Diane Strandberg, Tri-City News