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SkyTrain turns 30 today!… (Whaaaaaat?)

Flashback Friday: a SkyTrain promo video from 1984 

Today, on a sunny winter day 30 years ago, Premier Bill Bennett proudly announced the opening of SkyTrain – forever changing the face of transit for Metro Vancouver – crazy, huh?


SkyTrain bursts through a banner on its very first day in service: Dec 11, 1985!

The inauguration of SkyTrain was huge – so huge in fact, that there were three events in one day (lucky!).

Following the opening ceremony at Waterfront Station, the first SkyTrain car was radioed to the platform, broke through a ceremonious ribbon and then continued its maiden voyage – attending two more celebrations – one at Metrotown Station and the other at New Westminster Station.

The original line – named Expo Line – was a legacy project of Expo ’86 and connected downtown Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster. Passengers then had the ability to travel from Waterfront Station to New Westminster Station in just 25 minutes – half the time it would have taken to travel by bus!

Following the December 11, 1985 inauguration, SkyTrain entered free service—the system was launched with huge fanfare and eight days of free rides, before officially going into paid service on January 3, 1986.

Over the coming decades, Metro-Vancouver’s rapid transit system would see exponential growth with extensions to the Expo Line, the creation of the Millennium Line, the addition of the Canada Line and our soon to be Evergreen Extension (an extension of the Millennium Line).

Let’s look at some of our major milestones in the last 30 years:

  • 1986 SkyTrain opens for regular revenue service
  • 1989 – 1994 – three Expo Line expansion projects built – adding service to Surrey with King George Station as the terminus station.
  • 2002 – Millennium Line officially opens – operating along the Expo Line to New Westminster Station and adding new service between Columbia Station and Commercial-Broadway.
  • 2006 – Millennium Line service is extended to its current terminus station, VCC-Clark.
  • 2009 – Canada Line opens connecting downtown Vancouver with Richmond and YVR airport.
  • 2017 – The Evergreen extension of the Millennium Line, connecting Coquitlam and Port Moody, through Burnaby, to Vancouver with a one seat ride, is scheduled to open.

From a modest 22 kilometres track carrying roughly 50,000 passengers a day to 15 stations, SkyTrain has grown to a mammoth rapid transit system. We now operate 68 kilometres of track with 47 stations and transport roughly 250, 000 passengers per day, AND when the Evergreen Extension opens, we will have the longest fully automated rapid transit network in the world – with 79  kilometres of track and 53 stations.

Were you at SkyTrain’s inauguration or at any other of the milestone events or have a favourite memory of SkyTrain? We would love to hear from you – comment below!

Going to Town – 1985 SkyTrain project documentary 


Author: Jordan Keim 


  • By Eric B, December 11, 2015 @ 12:25 pm

    Happy birthday, SkyTrain!

    But can TransLink clear up whether Evergreen is indeed an entirely new line, or merely an extension of the Millennium Line? A couple of weeks ago, the media were reporting on the latest opening delay of the “Evergreen Line”. You mention above it’s an “extension”. Which is it?

  • By Jordan Keim, December 11, 2015 @ 12:48 pm

    Thanks, Eric! To clear things up, Evergreen is an extension of the Millennium Line.

  • By Ed P from Victoria BC, December 11, 2015 @ 5:31 pm

    I was in Vancouver when Skytrain opened (yeah, I’m old!) and before that they had public demonstration runs controlled by an operator running from Main Street along the elevated track down Terminal Avenue and back which were well attended. Of course, being free helped!

    I remember being terrified riding on a train with no motorman – what could possibly go wrong? It took me quite a while to get used to it.

  • By Jordan Keim, December 14, 2015 @ 8:55 am

    Too funny, Ed. What an exciting time that must have been!

  • By elevtechlift, December 11, 2015 @ 9:29 pm

    Nice! Good job to BCRTC with keeping the SkyTrain running always functional and smooth! Keep up the good work and continue improving the system! Also, get the auto-restart module installed as soon as possible to get ready for another breakdown and delays! For TransLink, perhaps help influence other cities to build their own version of SkyTrain or a driverless equivalent (Driverless Monorail, driverless rubber-tyred metros (think of the 1983 Lille Metro Line 1 or the 1981 Kobe New Transit Port Liner AGT (Automated Guideway Transit) system), etc.). Also, for us, invest in not just maintaining the SkyTrain system but also invest in a new SkyTrain-like heavy metro Monorail system (think of the Chongqing Monorail network but fully automated like the SkyTrain) when building a new rapid transit system on an alignment where a SkyTrain extension is not possible.

  • By Jordan Keim, December 14, 2015 @ 10:06 am

    Thanks for your kind words, Elevtechlift!

  • By Graham, December 11, 2015 @ 11:27 pm

    Any chance we might see trains with a 30 year graphic wrap in the future, like we did with the 25 year anniversary?

  • By Jordan Keim, December 14, 2015 @ 9:57 am

    Hi Graham – I don’t believe there are any plans to do train wraps for this anniversary. Thanks!

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