Larger stations or more trains? Canada Line faces tough choice as demand increases

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WATCH: The CEO of TransLink says the stations on the Skytrain Canada Line between Vancouver and Richmond are too small, and won’t be able to accommodate larger trains as ridership grows. Ted Chernecki explains.

As Metro Vancouver’s population grows, its transit authority is facing more SkyTrain struggles.

TransLink’s CEO is admitting they were short-sighted when building the Canada Line — and now faces a tough choice about how to combat the problem.

The service has taken a step towards addressing demand by ordering at least 22 new train cars specifically for the Canada Line, which are set to be in place by next year at the earliest.

READ MORE: Can’t find a SkyTrain seat? TransLink says new trains are on the way

But the stations along the line, which connects downtown Vancouver to Richmond and the airport, were only built to handle two-car trains, meaning TransLink has two expensive options: dig out and expand the platforms, or add more frequent service.

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TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says that in the short term, adding more cars is just about all they can do.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge, ultimately, how much throughput we can get on the Canada Line,” Desmond said at a recent Surrey Board of Trade luncheon.

“At least in the near term, in the next 10, 15 years, we think just adding cars” will curb demand to an extent, he added.

WATCH: A new performance review says TransLink ridership has seen the biggest jump since the 2010 Winter Olympics. Ted Chernecki explains why.

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TransLink report cites increased ridership

But the problem is expected to only get worse in the years ahead, as massive condo development along the Cambie Street corridor — which the Canada Line runs underneath — will soon lead to a spike in ridership, due to people moving to the area partly for easy access to transit.

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Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson said poor planning and limited foresight are largely to blame for what TransLink is facing now.

“My sense of the Canada Line was that it was kind of scrimping and saving and not thinking long-term,” he said.

“There were a number of decisions at the time made like that. The planning in the corridor wasn’t done in advance. We’re doing that [kind of planning] differently now.”

READ MORE: TransLink adding 105,000 service hours starting Sept. 4

Dresmond is promising TransLink will avoid making the same mistake when construction begins on the upcoming Broadway extension of the Millennium Line, which could begin as early as 2019.

Robertson said the city needs to do a better job of planning for the long-term future when undertaking massive projects.

“When we do these larger projects… we have to think 100 years out,” the mayor said. “We have to think big picture.

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“We have a million people coming [to Metro Vancouver] in the next 20, 25 years. We have to be thinking longer-term and building infrastructure that makes sense for the future.”

With files from Ted Chernecki

WATCH: TransLink has made a large increase in its service in the suburbs, making public transit a more realistic option. Grace Ke tells us where the new service is going.

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TransLink expands suburban service