TRANSLINK on Thursday released the results of an independent technical study of trade-offs associated with operating SkyTrain all night Fridays and Saturdays as well as a report outlining other transit options that could be effective in getting late night patrons home safely.
The independent, year-long technical study found that to ensure the SkyTrain system could be properly maintained, significant operational changes would be required including a reduction of SkyTrain operating hours during weekdays and full closures of the system on some statutory holidays. Moving to extended service on Fridays and Saturdays would have the following impacts:
- Scheduling: SkyTrain service would end an hour earlier Sunday-Thursday to make up maintenance hours. Closures would also be required on some statutory holidays.
- Ridership: There are currently about one-million annual Expo/Millennium Line boardings during the last weekday service hour while an all-night SkyTrain service is projected to attract between 525,000 and 700,000 annual boardings. The all-night SkyTrain estimate does not include the potential impact of ride-hailing on demand.
- Cost: The study estimates an initial $20-million is needed to upgrade and purchase maintenance facilities and equipment. The annual operating cost about $10-million.
- Project delays: TransLink is expecting two major SkyTrain extension projects, new fleet and multiple station upgrades. Some of this work requires the system to be shut down, so the amount of time it takes to complete these projects will increase.
TransLink also reviewed other transit options including a new NightBus express service that would give late-night customers a safe ride home along a predictable route. The service would:
- Begin operation when SkyTrain stopped running until it started up again in the morning (this service would be available 24/7).
- Follow the Expo and Millennium Line routes, stopping at select SkyTrain stations.
- Early testing of a potential Expo Line route between the Granville entertainment district and Surrey Central Station shows bus travel time would be about 20 minutes longer than SkyTrain service. Travel times could be reduced further by stopping at key stations only.
- Planning for the service can begin once funding is secured.
There is a need for more transportation options late at night and TransLink has a role to play, according to CEO Kevin Desmond. “I believe this option will make a difference. We can roll out relatively quickly and easily once funding is secured whereas running SkyTrain all night on weekends would negatively affect more customers than it helps due to the significant scheduling and cost trade-offs required.”
TransLink is also acting immediately to expand its NightBus program:
- The NightBus District, launched as a pilot project last summer, has proven to be a success and is now a permanent hub in Vancouver’s Granville entertainment district. Customers can wait at a central, well-lit environment at Granville and Georgia.
- As of September 2, the N17 Night Bus to UBC will be extended to run through the night until the start of regular service.
- TransLink is adding trips to the N19 between Vancouver and Surrey this fall to address overcrowding.
- The N15 on Cambie is being simplified to provide more direct service to Vancouver International Airport.
Service is being increased on nine NightBus routes in 2020.
“After seeing the success that came from the launch of TransLink’s NightBus District last year, we’re hopeful that a NightBus express service would strengthen downtown Vancouver’s nighttime economy and help even more people return home safely from the downtown core”, says Charles Gauthier, President and CEO of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. “This will be the most efficient way to extend late-night transit services, and we look forward to seeing it implemented.”