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Vancouver Transit Guide: Getting Around Vancity

PUBLIC TRANSIT. The public transit system in Vancouver is called TransLink. It operates the three SkyTrain rapid transit lines, SeaBus ferry and buses throughout the city. Here are maps of the whole system. Most buses, along with SeaBus and SkyTrain, are wheelchair lift-equipped.

Fares are the same whether you travel by bus, SeaBus or SkyTrain, and you can transfer among all three. Deposit exact change on the bus—a single adult fare is $2.50 and is good for 90 minutes of travel within one zone. You must increase your initial fare—or purchase an AddFare if you’ve already bought a one-zone ticket—if you are travelling to more than one zone (here’s a fare zone map). A two-zone fare is $3.75, and a three-zone fare is $5. If it’s a Sunday or holiday, travel among all zones is only $2.50. Ticket machines at SkyTrain and SeaBus stations accept cash, debit or credit cards. Books of 10 FareSaver tickets ($21) and DayPasses ($9) can be purchased at stations and select FareDealer convenience stores (here’s a list of where to buy).

SkyTrain services Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond and Surrey, and runs every two to six minutes from roughly 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., Monday through Friday, and 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Sunday—all times depend on the line and direction. SeaBus, a passengers-only catamaran, travels every 15-30 minutes between North Vancouver and downtown Vancouver on a 12-minute trip. Bus stops are clearly indicated and usually list route numbers serving the stop. All buses are equipped to carry bicycles. Text the bus stop number to 333-33 to receive times for the next five buses, or check the TransLink website for exact schedules.

TAXI. You can hail a cab on the street in Vancouver (if the roof light is on, it’s available) or you can call for one. Meters start at $3.30 and increase by kilometre. You can text #TAXI (#8294) on your mobile phone, which launches a voice call to connect you to the closest cab in your area. It costs between $1.25 and $2 per call, depending on your wireless carrier. The biggest and most reliable cab companies are:
Yellow Cab, 604-681-1111
Vancouver Taxi, 604-871-1111
• Maclure’s Cabs, 604-831-1111
• Black Top/Checker Cabs, 604-731-1111
Richmond Taxi, 604-272-1111

DRIVING. Right turns are permitted on red lights unless signs indicate otherwise. Watch for signs indicating that turning or parking is prohibited at certain times (e.g. rush hour). Most of Granville Street downtown is for buses and taxis only. Some traffic lights blink green instead of staying solid. Blinking green traffic lights don’t turn red unless a pedestrian presses the walk button to cross the street. On streets with blinking green lights, the cross street has no traffic light, only a stop sign. Cars may cross when there is a break in traffic, or with a pedestrian who is also crossing the street. Watch for counter-flow lanes on Highway 1A/99, which switch direction during rush hours to accommodate traffic flow.

PARKING. Street parking is available with or without meters, or in designated parking lots. Most of downtown Vancouver has metered parking, which is in effect from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, including holidays. Rates range from $1 to $6 per hour, and meters often have a two-hour time limit. You’re free to park on streets without meters and without signs that indicate residential parking only (unless you have the appropriate permit). Pay for parking with coins or a credit card. Look for the orange “P” signs that indicate the EasyPark public pay parking lots (here’s a map of locations and rates). Rates and hours vary based on the lot.

COACH & TRAIN. Pacific Central Station is located close to downtown, at the intersection of Main Street and Terminal Avenue. Take the eastbound Expo or Millennium line from any downtown SkyTrain station and get off at Main Street-Science World station. Pacific Central Station is located across the street. It’s served by Pacific Coach Lines and Greyhound coaches, and Via Rail and Amtrak trains. Connect from downtown Vancouver’s Waterfront Station to points in Port Moody west to Mission via the West Coast Express commuter train. WCE runs Monday through Friday, with five departures in the morning and five in the late afternoon/evening. One-way fares range from $6.75 to $11.25.

BIKE. Cycling is one of the most popular ways for locals to get around Vancouver. You can ride your bike on most streets, and there are designated bike routes to help make riding safer. Separated bicycle lanes are marked by medians and planters—in the downtown core, you can find these running east-west on Dunsmuir Street from Main to Hornby, and north-south on Hornby Street from the waterfront to Beach Avenue. There is also a separated bike lane on the Burrard Bridge, making it one of the safest bridges to cross out of downtown. The seawall is a scenic 22-kilometre (14-mile) path that lines the waterfront sections of the downtown peninsula, Stanley Park and west to Kitsilano Beach. Be sure to follow the signs, as cyclists use the inside path and walkers use the outside path. Rent a bike from Spokes Bicycle Rentals or Bayshore Bicycle & Rollerblade Rentals.

FERRY. Mini-ferries service the waters of False Creek, connecting the downtown peninsula with Granville Island and Kits Point. The passengers-only Aquabus (station map here) and False Creek Ferries (station map here) offer regular sailings daily, and one-way fares start at $3.25.

BC Ferries, the province’s passenger and vehicle service, provides year-round sailings on 25 routes. Travel to Victoria, Nanaimo, the Sunshine Coast or the Gulf Islands from Tsawwassen terminal in Delta or Horseshoe Bay terminal in West Vancouver. Most vessels offer a view lounge, cafeteria and other services. Vehicle reservations are recommended for peak periods, including weekends and holidays. Ticket sales stop 10 minutes before departure time for foot passengers and five minutes prior for vehicles. If you have a reservation and are not checked in 30 minutes prior to departure time, you forfeit your reservation and must travel standby. Foot passengers can take local transit to the terminals or travel via Pacific Coach Lines (between Vancouver and Victoria only). Fares vary depending on the route. If you’re travelling in a vehicle, you must purchase a fare for the vehicle itself and pay a fare for every passenger in the car. For schedules and vehicle reservations, call toll-free 1-888-BCFERRY (223-3779) or visit the BC Ferries website.