Vancouver British Columbia - On another wet and cold day almost exactly one year ago, the first trains for regular passenger service began rolling on the Evergreen extension of the Millennium Line, making SkyTrain the longest rail rapid transit system in Canada and the longest driverless train system in the world.
The 11 kilometre, 6 station extension opened on 2 Dec 2016, and since then TransLink says the train system has shifted transportation patterns in the region, especially in Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Port Moody.
There are approximately 34,000 boardings on the $1.4 billion Evergreen extension each weekday on average, which represents a 13 percent increase from early 2017.
The busiest day yet was on Canada Day, 1 Jul 2017, when there were 36,900 boardings recorded.
Between the period from 2 Dec 2016 and 31 Oct 2017 there were a total of 8.6 million boardings on the extension.
Moreover, 51 percent of transit journeys in the Tri-Cities now begin at an Evergreen extension station, and the average weekday transit ridership in the area in September and October this year is over 25 percent higher than the same period in 2016.
As well, transit ridership in the Tri-Cities on weekends is now up by over 50 percent.
Bus routes in the Tri-Cities were realigned and optimized for the Evergreen extension in January.
"People across the region are embracing the service in a very big way," said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond during a press conference this morning.
"This really shouldn't be so surprising. You put a new rail line like this in place, you build it and they will come. That is absolutely true."
Desmond also highlighted the extension as a catalyst for economic growth and much needed housing supply.
There is currently $3.8 billion worth of developments planned or under construction directly adjacent to the extension between Lougheed Town Centre Station and Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station, with the largest cluster being around Lougheed from the redevelopment of the shopping centre.
Altogether, this encompasses 7.1 million square feet of residential space and nearly 10,000 units of housing.
"Housing affordability relates to the kinds of densities that we can achieve in lowering the land component per unit, and you can't achieve those kinds of densities unless you have rapid transit," said Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart.
"The housing challenge in this region isn't as much as a shortage of housing but a shortage of transit stations, and we really need to expand the transit network to meet the needs of the region. Transit is absolutely vital to the challenges of housing affordability."
Currently, the Evergreen extension is a one seat, 36 minute ride between Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station in Coquitlam and VCC Clark Station in Vancouver.
With the future Broadway extension of the Millennium Line, Desmond highlighted that the extended route beginning from Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station and ending at Arbutus Street will take just 47 minutes, which means the planned 5 kilometre extension on its own will have a travel time of 11 minutes.
A future expansion of the Evergreen extension from Coquitlam Central Station to Port Coquitlam, and perhaps even as far as Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, is possible as the system was physically designed for that option.
By 2019 a B Line rapid bus service will operate on the Lougheed Highway route between Coquitlam Central Station, Pitt Meadows, and Maple Ridge.