Photo credit: Ted McGrath / Flickr
Vancouver boasts an accessible and convenient public transit system, offering a great way for visitors to see the city. Most of Vancouver’s top attractions are reachable via transit. TransLink is Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation authority, and operates a public transit system made up of a network of buses, the SkyTrain, and the SeaBus, as well as the West Coast Express commuter train service.
The TransLink website is a great place to find current schedules, fare information, and trip planning tools to help you get around while in Vancouver. You can also call 604.953.3333 for customer service.
In addition to public transit options, two companies operate small ferries cross False Creek to the south of the downtown core, which also make a fun, convenient way to see Vancouver.
Vancouver’s busiest bus routes run from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., with a more limited NightBus service filling that gap in the early hours of the morning. In downtown Vancouver, many buses will transit through Granville Street, Burrard Street and Georgia Street. Visit TransLink’s website for Trip Planning tools. Here are a few good routes for Vancouver visitors:
- #2 – running along Burrard Street from Burrard SkyTrain station, take the “#2 MacDonald” over the bridge to Kitsilano for the Museum of Vancouver and other attractions, Bard on the Beach and a day on the beach.
- #22 – also starting from Burrard SkyTrain station, the “#22 Knight” heads east through downtown to Chinatown.
- #19 – catch the “#19 Stanley Park” along Pender Street to get to the heart of Vancouver’s most famous park.
- #7 or #4 – running along Granville Street, take the “#7 Dunbar” or “#4 UBC” to reach Kitsilano’s 4th Avenue shopping district.
- #250 or #257 – starting on West Georgia Street outside The Bay department store, the “#250 Horseshoe Bay” or “#257 Horseshoe Bay Express” head north-west through West Vancouver to reach the BC Ferries terminal.
- #236 – take the SeaBus over to Lonsdale Quay, then board the “#236 Grouse Mountain” to get to Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain.
Vancouver’s SkyTrain is a completely automated light rapid transit system, offering fast, efficient service between downtown and Metro Vancouver’s suburbs. There are three lines:
- The Expo Line runs south-east from downtown Vancouver, out to Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey. There are four downtown stations – Waterfront, Burrard, Granville and Stadium-Chinatown. Take one of these trains to visit Science World, get to Pacific Central Station, visit the Commercial Drive neighbourhood, or head out to Metrotown shopping mall in Burnaby or the River Market at New Westminster Quay. Trains run every two to five minutes.
- The Canada Line runs from downtown Vancouver, before splitting with one extension going to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and the other heading further south into Richmond. There are three downtown stations – Waterfront, Vancouver City Centre and Yaletown. Along with getting to the airport, take this line to visit the Olympic Village neighbourhood, Queen Elizabeth Park, River Rock Casino Resort, and Aberdeen Centre shopping mall, and the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet centre. During peak hours, it runs every three to six minutes, and less frequently during other times.
- The Millennium Line runs east from Vancouver, starting at VCC-Clark station and continuing through Burnaby, Port Moody and Coquitlam, where it links with the Westcoast Express commuter train. There are no downtown stations on this line, but the route connects with the Expo Line at Commercial-Broadway station, with trains that run every two to five minutes.
SkyTrain stations and cars are wheelchair accessible and are closely linked with bus service at almost all stations. SkyTrain lines operate daily, with the first train departing at around 5:30 a.m. on weekdays (later on weekends), and the last train leaving around 1:00 a.m. Please see the TransLink site for more information.
SeaBus is a unique, passenger-only, wheelchair accessible ferry service that connects downtown Vancouver’s Waterfront Station to Lonsdale Quay on the North Shore. The scenic crossing of Burrard Inlet takes 12 minutes and offers a breathtaking perspective of the city, sea and mountains. It departs every 15 minutes during the day, and every 30 minutes at night, with the final sailing leaving Lonsdale Quay at 1:00 a.m. (11:00 p.m. on Sundays).
Greater Vancouver is divided into three fare zones for SkyTrain and SeaBus, while bus journeys are charged at a one-zone rate regardless of the distance. Zones are in effect during peak periods, from start of service until 6:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. Tickets are valid for travel for up to 90 minutes, and allow you to transfer across different modes of transit, as long as travel is within the zone(s) that you originally paid for. The exception is cash fares paid on the bus, which allow you to transfer to other buses, but not to SkyTrain or SeaBus services. Concession fares are available for children 5 – 13 years, children 14 – 19 years with a valid Translink GoCard, and seniors 65+ with proof of age. Children under 4 years ride free.
There are three ways of paying your fare:
- Cash in exact change (bus only).
- Single use Compass Ticket, which can be purchased at vending machines at SeaBus, SkyTrain and West Coast Express stations, and at select London Drugs locations. Machines accept cash, credit and debit cards.
- Refillable Compass Card, which holds credit that is deducted for each journey. A card can be obtained for a $6 refundable deposit, and is then loaded with credit. When you get on a bus, or enter and exit a SkyTrain or SeaBus station, just tap the card on the electronic reader and your fare is automatically calculated and deducted from your account. Adult fares paid using Compass Cards are discounted compared to those paid for with a single-use ticket, and the other big advantage is being able to register the card online and auto-load more credit without visiting a machine or service desk. Compass Cards can be purchased at vending machines SeaBus, SkyTrain and West Coast Express stations, as well as select London Drugs locations. Machines accept cash, credit and debit cards.
Fares are as follows:
- One Zone: $2.85 Adults / $2.20 Compass Card / $1.80 Concession
- Two Zone: $4.10 Adults / $3.25 Compass Card / $2.80 Concession
- Three Zone: $5.60 Adults / $4.30 Compass Card / $3.80 Concession
DayPass and Other Passes
TransLink offers a DayPass fare, allowing you unlimited travel over all three zones for one day. The pass is $10.00 for an adult, and $7.75 for a concession fare. DayPasses are available at Tourism Vancouver's Visitor Centre, from ticket machines in SkyTrain and SeaBus stations, and from select London Drugs locations. You can buy the pass either as a single-use Compass Ticket, or load the pass onto your reusable Compass Card. For those in Vancouver on an extended stay, you can purchase monthly passes for each calendar month via your refillable Compass Card.
For more information about fares and other passes, visit the TransLink website.
Wheelchair & Bike Accessibility
TransLink’s transit fleet is fully-accessible, enabling everyone to travel by bus, SkyTrain, and SeaBus. Buses have either low floors with ramps or high floors with lifts, and all SkyTrain stations have elevators. Many buses are also equipped with bicycle racks on the front, allowing you to combine cycling and transit to get where you’re going. Bicycles are also allowed on the SkyTrain system during non-peak hours. Read more on TransLink’s website.
West Coast Express
The commuter train service, West Coast Express, links several outer suburbs to downtown Vancouver. It is part of the public transit system, but the fare structure is separate. It offers five departures into downtown each morning, and five departures back to the suburbs in the late afternoon and early evening, Monday to Friday only. For more information on the West Coast Express, please visit the TransLink website.
Ferries Across False Creek
Reminiscent of tiny tugboats, two companies operate small passenger ferries that cross back and forth over False Creek, the body of water that runs to the south of the downtown peninsula. For young and old alike, these little ferries are a charming way to see Vancouver from the water, as well as being convenient option for getting to some of the city’s most popular attractions. They also offer short sightseeing cruises of the area.
Both Aquabus and False Creek Ferries offer regular service up and down the inlet, with stops including Yaletown, Granville Island, Olympic Village (close to Science World), and the foot of Hornby Street in the West End. Ferry service runs from approximately 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. depending on the season and the dock, so it’s best to visit the operator’s site to confirm schedules and fares.