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SkyTrain historical video: Rapid Transit, Rapid Transition, a 1984 promotional video

The SkyTrain 25th anniversary celebration continues: here’s another fantastic SkyTrain promotional video from 1984, again shot by local video company JEM Productions!

This one stares into the future with a bit more seriousness than the past few videos, but this time with a killer synth soundtrack. (Seriously: I’ve got to make some ringtones.)

It traces the new SkyTrain route, gives us a glimpse of the SkyTrain attendants’ fabulous uniforms, and has a fairly exhaustive list of all the economic benefits and regional growth that Vancouver can expect.

And of course you can check out some awesome aerial shots of historic 1980s Vancouver!

If you’d like to see more, I’ve posted two other SkyTrain videos in the past, plus scans of photos and memorabilia. Check out the entire Transit History category for all of those and even more history tidbits. Happy 25th, SkyTrain!


  • By Alan, February 17, 2011 @ 9:30 am

    I love these videos, I am new to Canada, but love seeing how the environment has changed over the years and how much Transit has

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, February 17, 2011 @ 10:22 am

    Alan: did your message get cut off there?

  • By mark!, February 17, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

    It’s awesome seeing the old videos, thanks for posting another one!

    I can’t help but laugh at 1:55. SkyTrain to Coquitlam… in a video from 25 years ago.

  • By Sheba, February 17, 2011 @ 9:33 pm

    Who do we talk to about changing announcements on the Skytrain? I’ve tried e-mail, Twitter and Translink Listens with no success.

    Like this afternoon when the Skytrain ‘paused’ and we kept hearing that it should only be “a moment or two” (usually I hear minute but today it was moment) – after 5-10 minutes of hearing the same message over and over it gets annoying. Same with “thank you for your patience” – like we have much choice…

    On a related note, it was humorous when we kept hearing the problem train was between 22nd AVENUE and New West Station. Isn’t Skytrain Control (who was making these announcements) supposed to know the name of the stations?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, February 18, 2011 @ 9:46 am

    Sheba: Well, I can pass along your comments to my contacts as well—hopefully that will help. Just so I pass on the right info, could you try to articulate what announcements you would like to hear during delays? Thanking customers for their patience and providing estimates of the wait time are standard practice I believe—how do you feel this could be better adjusted?

  • By Jas, February 18, 2011 @ 9:42 am

    Love the lines: “…central computers cross-checking everything at the speed of light…every car has a telephone direct to the control centre…need a doctor? Call.”

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, February 18, 2011 @ 9:47 am

    Jas: I know! I keep forgetting cell phones didn’t exist back then, so phone contact from the train in the sky would have been a huge selling point.

  • By Sheba, February 18, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

    Jhen: Pretty much every time I’ve been on a ‘paused’ train and it’s long enough for an announcement, I hear some variation of the problem being fixed “in a minute or two” and that almost never happens – after 5 minutes people start rolling their eyes when they hear that message yet again. If transit staff don’t know how long it’ll take I’d rather hear something like “we hope to have the issue resolved shortly.”

    “Thank you for your patience” gets old quickly too. Swapping that out so we only have to hear it every other announcement would help.

    I will say that it’s not as bad now that the trains tend to sit at a station. I remember being stuck between stations. A friend of mine had the worst one of being stuck just outside his station for 45 minutes during afternoon rush hour, and it was summer. I think he still has nightmares of roasting on that crowded train.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, February 18, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

    Thanks Sheba. Forwarding your note on!

  • By JC, February 21, 2011 @ 10:14 pm

    It seems Grace McCarthy hasn’t coined the name “SkyTrain” yet in this promo video…

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, March 20, 2011 @ 4:55 pm


    Maybe it’s a bit late to say this, but giving estimated wait times is good, as long as they don’t just pick figurate numbers [e.g., “a couple of minutes” when they really mean “a short while”]. The idea is that some people might be able to make an alternate connection, if the problem is taking too long.

    As soon as the crew is finishing up, please announce it. If they encounter an unexpected problem that will delay the completion, then please let us know.


    If you are heading for Surrey, and if you are stuck at 22nd St Station, then I encourage you to consider taking the #340, if it passes by/near your home. Every time I change trains, I try to wait at 22nd St Station, in case of delays. This obviously applies to other stations for other trips, too.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, March 21, 2011 @ 9:34 am

    Sheba, Eugene: Oops—I did receive a response from SkyTrain on the announcement item and missed posting it until now. Here it is.

    I forwarded this complaint to our Control Manager for his review and comments. We did have a delay near 22nd Street station at around 1:40pm. I know it’s sometimes hard for control operators to provide an estimated time until service resumes because often they need to assess the problem first. Their priority is to concentrate on the problem and try to get service back to normal again. The operators will often repeat the message as well because it gives the passenger the choice to leave the train and take the bus or a taxi if they don’t want to wait. When we have a delay, the train could be at a station or it could be in the middle of the track. Some passengers might be just entering the train or station as they hear the announcements. It is part of the process for control operators to make repeated announcements because some passengers might have just arrived on the system and they did not know about the delay.

    I hope it helps provide some context to what you’re hearing out there on the system — and they do have your feedback now, so perhaps things will adjust more in the future too.

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, March 21, 2011 @ 10:33 am


    Then perhaps they could announce where they are at, as well as the context? In other words, “We are currently assessing the problem. We hope to continue on shortly.”, and give more updates, after they assess the problem? People who are just joining the situation could figure it out from the updated announcement. Here is an example of updated announcements.

    “We are experiencing a delay. We will have somebody assessing the situation in a moment.”
    “We now have somebody assessing the situation. We hope to have a solution soon.”
    “We have begun working on the situation, and expect to finish work in roughly ___ minutes.”

    The idea is to just report something as they reach a new stepping stone.

    If the customers know the type of progress that the messages must go through, then they can estimate which travel options are going to be the best. The incident at 22nd St Station would have been a perfect time to try the technique, if I were there.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano - Buzzer Editor, March 21, 2011 @ 10:41 am

    Eugene: I think there’s lots to be said in favour of a generic message though—obviously more detailed reporting should be provided if the delay is super long or incredibly onerous, but for short delays, especially when different problem solving techniques are being used with varying results, it might be quite cumbersome and counterproductive to report on every little step. And it might be more anxiety inducing to the public if they hear about things moving backwards and forwards in the process, as I’m sure they must do. For example, after work begins on the problem and the estimate is 5 minutes, it turns out the delay has become longer. In that case you’ve overpromised and underdelivered, which would make people MORE frustrated! Anyway, my point is really that a generic message then can serve instead as a nice umbrella message in many cases with optimal results :)

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, March 21, 2011 @ 3:53 pm


    Oh, I get it now. Thanks for the explanation.

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, March 21, 2011 @ 4:46 pm

    I finally finished watching the video. I’m very impressed. The whole project seems too big to handle, but here we are 25 years later. The video seems to promise so much, and I feel so sceptical about political promises, but most of it has come to pass.

    1 interesting moment that I noticed was the part about the honour system, and how it is inspired Europe.

    Good job government, BC Transit, and Translink.

  • By Victor, June 28, 2011 @ 10:54 pm

    It’s funny how they cut the sound of train coming to complete stop
    I actually wonder how trains know where they are. Like GPS here doesn’t work for it didn’t exist back in 1984 and it wouldn’t work in Dunsmuir tunnel.Is there some kind of special rail for this purpose?
    And how do trains communicate with one another and with vehicle control centres?They obviously have antennas, but do they communicate directly or there’s some sort of “bridge” on the tracks that transfers messages from computers?
    And what are those blue poles for?
    This would be great if Jhenifer or Robert could pass it to SkyTrain,I’ve been wondering about it for a while

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