On Trains & Buses

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Sampling Public Transit in British Coloumbia

Posted on December 2, 2022

Reading time: 5 minutes.

SkyTrain track, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

In the interests of sharing something more positive in this more downbeat time, I am recalling experiences of public transportation during an eight-day trip to Vancouver in British Columbia during July 2019. In truth, the time that I spent in that part of Canada limited me to the aforementioned city and its surroundings. The furthest that I got to go was Victoria on Vancouver Island while Squamish was reached on the last full day of the trip.

Most of the time was spent around Vancouver itself. In the interests of keeping costs down, I based myself in a hotel away from the city centre. That meant that I had plenty of chances to sample its public transport network. This took time to get to know, but the use of a pre-paid card made things handy, and there was a flat fare for travel within a set period of time, regardless of the number of changes required. Still, I had to load the card using cash since the recharging machines did not work well with the cards that I had with me.

The SkyTrain system worked well and got me between the airport of my hotel, even if there was a noticeable walk between the latter and its nearest station. Otherwise, the regularity of the service meant that the system conveyed me on numerous journeys as I found my feet on the shores of an ocean that I had not seen before. The Canada Line was my mainstay, with only occasional use made of the Millennium Line; journeys to and from the Waterfront station were more useful to me than those made on the way towards the airport.

Otherwise, I made plenty of use of the bus system and got to know some of the routes well during my stay. All were single deckers and some were busy, but everyone fitted on the ones that I used. Vancouver is full of parks, and some are large, so there was plenty to visit along with landmarks around False Creek and along the Burrard inlet. Stanley Park was among the former while I even got to Pacific Regional Park near the University of British Columbia; the park around Trout Lake became another haunt of mine near my hotel.

TransLink buses also had their uses for getting to and from the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen for my day trip to Vancouver Island; there were a number of changes, but it all worked. The ferry sailing was pleasant too and the shuttle bus service to Victoria work well, though I was left wondering if I would miss the return ferry sailing on the way back. That was because I may have cut connection times too fine; in the end, we are in good time anyway. The driver even mentioned getting the authorities to give the drivers more time, so passengers were less anxious, and he even managed the rather clichéed joke about leaning forward to make the double-decker bus go uphill faster. In the end, nothing did anything to take away from a pleasant day away from the metropolis.

North Vancouver also featured on my rambles. An evening ferry crossing introduced me to that side of the Burrard Inlet. Later, I was to cross it by bus for day spent hiking among the slopes of the coastal mountains that black bears are known to frequent. None were encountered on my day outing, and I was not saddened by that; it was the heat that was more of a concern with remaining well hydrated being a must. More explorations remain a possibility, and Vancouver’s bus system would help with reaching those as well.

However, Canada is the world’s second-largest country with many sparsely populated spots. Thus, public transportation really does fade when you go away from the cities. To get to Squamish, I booked a return trip with a shuttle bus operator. It worked well, and the small size of the bus possibly reflected the fact that many would have driven there themselves. Whistler would have been another option, but time was too short for that. The time around Squamish was a good introduction anyway.

All in all, the public transport system was good enough to keep me from needing taxis. There were hireable bikes, too, that prompted thoughts of cycling on a different continent. In the end, enough confidence could not be summoned to fulfil the idea. Also, I am not convinced that they would have fitted on the racks on the fronts of buses. Even if I could be sure of a good fit, thoughts of loading a bike on those racks were not encouraging. Instructions from a driver would have been from the vehicle’s cab and I would not have wanted to cause delay through any ineptitude. All of this meant that walking was my method of human-powered exploration and filling any gaps that there might have been. That is often the only way to really explore a city, so I was more than happy to stroll about the place.

What I have not mentioned in all of this is air travel, for I made use of direct flights between Manchester and Vancouver. These were long at around nine hours, so I hoped to shorten them by reading or sleeping. That did not happen for various reasons, and I ended up catching sight of what others were watching on their in-flight entertainment screens part of the time. Maybe there was added nervousness at going so far away and so far outside my European comfort zone. Now that I have done the Canadian trip, it needs further adjustment to the post-pandemic world to calm other causes of qualm-mongering. July 2020 might have seen me head to Colorado, so that remains a possibility as does California. If those escapades ever came to pass, I might be tempted to upgrade the class of travel for greater space and comfort.