A new name for the Evergreen Line and a clearer picture of how the $1.4-billion rapid transit system from Burnaby to Coquitlam will be used by Tri-City residents were announced Monday.
TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond presented details of a make-over for the 30-year old SkyTrain system that turns the Millennium Line to an east-west route only between VCC Clark in Vancouver and Lougheed Town Centre station in Burnaby and includes the six new stations in Port Moody and Coquitlam once the new line opens in December.
The Evergreen Line will be part of the Millennium Line and called the Evergreen Extension.
Meanwhile, the Expo Line will be split into two branches originating from Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver — one terminating at King George in Surrey, as the Expo Line now does, and a second branch that ends at Production Way-University Station.
Tri-City commuters who hop on the Evergreen Extension when it opens sometime in December can get as far as VCC-Clark station in Vancouver without having to change trains. But if they want to get to downtown Vancouver, they'll have to transfer at the busy Commercial-Broadway station, currently undergoing a capacity upgrade.
For trips to New Westminster, Burnaby and south Vancouver, or further east to Surrey, Evergreen riders will get off at Lougheed Town Centre station and make the transfer (with a further transfer at Columbia Station for Surrey destinations).
Desmond said the change to the routes will make the system easier to understand and handle growing capacity.
"We are focused on helping our customers make a smooth transition to the new operating pattern. By doing this well in advance of opening the Evergreen Extension, we are giving our customers a chance to adjust and learn how the changes may affect how they travel on our system," he told media at a press conference at Lougheed Town Centre station in Burnaby on Monday.
The changes to the Millennium Line and Expo routes come into effect Oct. 22, but people can see how their trips will change now, using TransLink's Trip Planner, with a date of Oct. 22 or later. To find out how to use SkyTrain once the Evergreen Extension is up and running, commuters will have to wait until the opening date, said Ian Fisher, manager of operations planning for BC Rapid Transit Company, which runs SkyTrain.
Desmond said the changes are being implemented several weeks before the Evergreen opening to give staff time to test the system and to get customers familiar with the new routes.
"It's in preparation for the opening of the Evergreen Extension," Desmond told The Tri-City News, "It allows us to do the final testing in anticipation of a December opening."
As many as 170 staff have been hired for the expansion, and testing and training are expected to take several weeks. Desmond said couldn't be any more specific about the opening other than to say it would meet the provincial announcement and "be open for Christmas."
As for bus route changes, Desmond said they won't be made public until closer to the opening date.
NAME CHANGE EXPECTED
The name change from the Evergreen Line to the Evergreen Extension was a long time in coming, said BCRTC's Fisher.
Fisher said the name Evergreen Line made sense when the proposed system was stand alone light rail but once the decision was made in 2008 to extend SkyTrain to Coquitlam, and it became clear that the Millennium Line would be pushed out to Coquitlam, the name had to be changed to reflect the new reality.
He said he expects the route changes announced this week to benefit northeast commuters who will be able to conveniently travel from suburb to suburb.
However, northeast riders headed for downtown Vancouver and Waterfront Station will have to transfer at Broadway-Commercial on the Millennium Line.
Fisher said he didn't think it would deter riders because the new Evergreen extension, when it's up and running, will be much more convenient than the car or bus.
"You will have quicker travel times." he said, noting that peak hour trains will run every 3.5 minutes between Lafarge Lake-Douglas in Coquitlam and VCC-Clark, the last stop on the Millennium Line.
Eventually the Millennium Line will extend to Arbutus Street, tunneled under the Broadway Corridor, providing a longer route into Vancouver, but that's still years away.