Today, the long awaited Evergreen Line goes live (the light yellow section in the above map) providing grade separated rail based rapid transit service from Coquitlam Centre to the Lougheed area of Burnaby and beyond on the existing network! The new line will provide a high quality frequent rapid transit service from Coquitlam and Port Moody town centres to other centres in Burnaby, Surrey, Vancouver and Richmond. Read on for a comparison with other modes and some benefits...
I thought it would be interesting to compare some travel times by SkyTrain, bus, West Coast Express, and car, leaving from the eastern extremity of the new route to a few popular destinations along the SkyTrain network. Here are the travel times setting off around 7.30am via google maps...
Douglas Station (Coquitlam) to Lougheed (Burnaby)
Douglas Station (Coquitlam) to Metrotown (Burnaby)
Douglas Station (Coquitlam) to Waterfront (Vancouver)
Douglas Station (Coquitlam) to YVR Airport (Richmond)
Douglas Station (Coquitlam) to King George (Surrey)
Looking at the travel times it is not a clear win for the SkyTrain over the car. Subject to the level of congestion, the journey could be quicker by car, but 'Could' is the key word there, SkyTrain will bring greater reliability as it is unaffected by congestion and its journey times are consistent. During those congested periods, SkyTrain is definitely quicker than the car.
What this new service offers though is car like travel times by transit, assuming your origin and destination are close to a station. That's a pretty big thing and is a dramatic improvement over the previous option of taking the bus, where travel times are frequently double those that will be achieved with SkyTrain.
SkyTrain will remain less direct and slower than the West Coast Express passenger rail service to Downtown Vancouver, but offers lower costs, higher frequency trains, and longer hours of operation. SkyTrain will provide better connectivity to other parts of the region too.
With regard to travel times, it all comes down to where you need to get from, and get to, that makes or breaks the benefits of SkyTrain. However, given the various lines pass through many employment centres and we're now seeing more transit orientated high density development, it's a further step towards a more sustainable transportation system and communities as a whole.
Cost of Travel
Assuming stations are convenient for you. Cost is probably the next big consideration in switching from the car to SkyTrain. Its another one that is entirely dependent on your personal situation, how far you drive, how much gas your car uses and how much you pay to park.
Someone that drives a large SUV from Coquitlam Centre to Downtown Vancouver will use gas and pay for parking on a daily basis. If these costs are greater than the $170/month for a 3 Zone monthly transit pass (note this is cheaper than the existing West Coast Express service to downtown which is $201/month), there are instant savings to be made. In this example, say we're driving a 2017 Ford Escape, a relatively small typically SUV, its a 27km trip, or 54km per day, and our SUV gets 10.6 L/100km City driving. In 5 days we will travel 270km, use 28.62 litres of gas, which at say $1.15/litre is $32.91 per week for gas. Factor that up to a month and we are at $142.62 per month for gas, then lets say $100/month for parking which is likely cheap for downtown, but that brings us to $242.62 per month for the car or $72 more per month. For a less efficient vehicle or where parking is more expensive, savings would be even greater.
There are also potential savings from reduced wear and tear, reduced servicing and reduced insurance if the car is used less. If SkyTrain really works for you, there is the potential opportunity to remove the need for a car altogether, or drop from two cars to one car in the household. If the SkyTrain works for you and your origin and destination, there is the potential to make large savings.
Transit passes are also cheaper if you pass through fewer zones, a 1 Zone pass is $91/month and 2 Zone pass is $124/month, so it comes down to a personal calculation of direct cost, and then other less tangible values.
Congestion Relief and Emission Reductions
Even if you do not use SkyTrain, you will likely benefit from it because others will choose to use it, thus reducing congestion on the roadways for those that continue to drive.
However, it is often said that cars will fill up any space available to them. So while some may choose transit because it now works better for them, others may revert back to their cars because the roads just became a little less congested. As changes are made to the transportation system the balance shifts slightly in favour of transit, but as demand continues to grow it can shift back. Its always better that we have the transit options, but long term, congestion may still prevail.
I'd love to see some traffic count data along Pinetree Way and Saint Johns before and after SkyTrain to compare the immediate and then ongoing effect on traffic volumes. I'm sure there are studies somewhere on similar implementations.
Regardless of the above, the more people that can choose transit as a travel option the less greenhouse gases will be emitted per person. The example above where our guy commutes from Coquitlam to Downtown Vancouver would save over 2 tonnes of CO2e per year by choosing transit.
Development and Housing Options
Of course with our roads running better, and rapid transit options available, we can now accommodate more development on our transportation system. Population will grow, some will use transit, some will drive and sometime in the future, congestion may be back to pre SkyTrain levels. But still on a per person basis, we are moving more people more efficiently.
Development next to SkyTrain will hopefully see reduced parking requirements for both residential and commercial developments. If we continue to build condo's with multiple parking spaces, people with multiple cars will buy them, if we build condos with fewer, even no parking spaces, guess who will buy them? Those that use Transit.
More Sanity, Less Stress and Improved Health
Your sanity and reduced stress levels is one potentially big benefit for those that switch to transit. Driving is well proven to raise stress levels so the option of being able to sit on the train and read a book, or catch up on news is a much more pleasant way to get where you're going if the SkyTrain goes where you need it to go.
If you don't live or work immediately next to the SkyTrain though, you get even more benefits by adding up to four walks to your daily routine, helping make up for a day sat at your desk.
Well Done TransLink and the Province... Now...
Now if we can just complete the Surrey/Langley extensions, the Broadway extension, get the next one over to the North Shore, and extend the Richmond one down to Delta over the new bridge, we'll be all set!
Any other thoughts, leave them in the comments...