Starting at noon Friday, transit users will finally be able to travel to Port Moody and Coquitlam quickly and easily on the new Evergreen line.
“We’re excited to open the Evergreen extension and we think this is an exciting time for Tri-Cities residents. They’re eager to get out and try the new line and find out how it fits into their lives,” said TransLink spokesman Chris Bryan.
TransLink has planned celebrations at each station beginning at 10:30 a.m., and the gates will roll up to allow passengers to board trains starting at noon.
The line is an extension of the Millennium Line and joins the existing SkyTrain system at Lougheed Town Centre. It features six stations — Burquitlam, Moody Centre, Inlet Centre, Coquitlam Central, Lincoln and Lafarge Lake-Douglas — along an 11-kilometre route.
The ride between Lafarge Lake-Douglas station and Lougheed station takes 15 minutes, about half the time it takes to get between Coquitlam Central and Lougheed by bus. Going to Commercial-Broadway station will take 30 minutes, and the ride to Waterfront station will take 40 to 45 minutes.
It’s expected that the extension will carry 70,000 passengers by 2021.
Bryan said the addition of a major rapid transit line is going to affect the entire system, but some stations will be hit harder than others.
Commercial-Broadway, which is already the second-busiest station in the SkyTrain system, is expected to get even more traffic as Tri-Cities customers transfer from Millennium trains to the Expo Line to travel downtown. It is also in the process of being upgraded, which will restrict access at some times.
“That’s always been a really busy hub,” Bryan said. “We’re watching that one closely.” Lougheed Town Centre will also be a busy station because it is a busy bus and SkyTrain line transfer point, but Bryan said that may be alleviated somewhat because people will be boarding trains in Coquitlam and Port Moody and riding through.
Coquitlam Central is expected to be the busiest station on the new extension, because of its connection with the West Coast Express commuter trains and a multitude of buses that run throughout Coquitlam and farther east.
Bryan said TransLink will be constantly monitoring the Expo and Millennium lines to see where adjustments need to be made to deal with congestion.
“We certainly know there may be some crowding issues, et cetera, certainly in the early days with new people eager to try out the new line,” Bryan said. “We have some sense but there are a lot of factors at play and sometimes trying to predict commuter behaviour is a bit more of an art than a science.”
The SkyTrain operating pattern was changed on Oct. 22 to accommodate the extension and ease existing congestion. One change was increasing the frequency of trains on the Millennium Line, which now runs every three to four minutes during peak times rather than every five to six minutes.
The extension took 46 months to build and had a budget of $1.43 billion. The provincial government said earlier this week it is expected to come in under budget, despite issues and delays that happened while boring the line’s two-kilometre-long tunnel.
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