SeaBuses crossing Burrard Inlet.

SkyTrain, SeaBus service improves with first big TransLink upgrade in a decade

First tangible improvements from $2-billion transit investment plan approved last year

TransLink’s first major transit service lift in a decade is now kicking in, with more frequent SeaBus sailings and extra service added to Canada Line and SkyTrain.

It’s the first tangible impact of the $2-billion phase one investment plan approved last year by Metro mayors and funded by modest tax and fare hikes.

The new improvements include:

– An 11 percent increase in passenger capacity during peak periods on the Canada Line.

– Extended weekday peak-hour service, and increasing mid-day and early evening service on weekends, on the Expo and Millennium Lines.

– Doubled SeaBus service on Sundays and holidays to sailings every 15 minutes from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

TransLink is not yet able to increase peak hours service on SkyTrain until more trains arrive and Expo Line improvements are complete, but it is effectively broadening peak service to more of the shoulder periods.

“The service improvements we’re launching today make space for 185,000 more people on our transit system each week,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “This means shorter waiting times and more options for customers travelling at some of the busiest times of the day.”

He said passengers should see a can expect a continuous rollout of further service improvements over the next three years as the full plan unfolds.

For example, SeaBus should run every 15 minutes seven days a week by the end of summer, when the third vessel can be staffed.

Bus service increases are expected to begin by April. And a 15 per cent increase in HandyDart hours is also planned.

Five new B-Line express bus routes are to be launched by 2019 on three corridors in Vancouver, plus  Fraser Highway and Lougheed Highway, connecting Maple Ridge residents to the Evergreen Line.

Design work is also being funded from the plan for the Broadway SkyTrain extension, Surrey-Langley light rail network and Pattullo Bridge replacement, as well as seismic upgrades for various overpasses and minor bridges.

The average home will pay $3 more per year in TransLink property tax to fund the first phase of the plan. Fares are slated to rise from about $2.10 for one zone now to $2.40 by 2019.

An additional funding source worth $50 million per year will be needed to deliver later phases of the plan, including actual construction of the new rapid transit lines. Negotiations are expected to start soon to try to determine that source.

“We need to build on the momentum created with phase one, and continue the partnership between our regional, provincial, and federal governments that has resulted in the $2-billion investment we are launching today,” said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, co-chair of the Mayors Council on Regional Transportation.

The mayors are hoping for a federal government commitment to phase two in the upcoming federal budget, as well as additional contributions from the province.

A commission is also going to explore potential future use of mobility pricing, including a field study of coordinated bridge and road tolling options.

Public consultations are set to begin Jan. 24 on initial light rail line in Surrey connecting Surrey City Centre, Newton and Guildford.