The other day I rode the Canada Line, Vancouver’s newest rail link, and had lunch at the airport. The trip took less than 20 minutes, which is a vast improvement from a few months ago when I last went to the airport from my office. Then I had to take three buses and it took more than hour.
The Canada Line though seems like an odd choice of name. Is Canada the only country in the world that would think to name a rail line after itself? I can’t see the Mexicans building a subway line and calling it the Mexico Line, or the British calling the Heathrow Express the United Kingdom line. Or what about the Congo Line (isn’t that a dance or something)? Equally ridiculous would be a subway line called the Brunei Darussalum Line or the Equitorial Guinea Line, or the Peru Line.
Logically, it should be called the Olympic Line, as the city’s two other SkyTrain routes are aptly named the Expo Line, because it was built for Expo 86, and the Millennium Line, because it was supposed to open in 2000, though it was late by a year or so. But politics often trumps logic. And to have named it the Olympic Line would have invited the whiny Olympic naysayers to add the $2 billion price tag for the train line to the cost of hosting the Olympics. Safer instead to call it the Canada Line. Who would argue with that? A little lame I think.
When the initial plans for the rail link to the airport and Richmond were first proposed, I remember Burnaby mayor, Derek Corrigan, saying something stupid--suggesting that the RAV line (as it was known before we got all vain) is a waste of money, because the only people that will ride the train are airport workers and backpackers, everyone else will take a cab.
When I rode the Olympic Line to the airport, I did see a few backpackers and maybe even some airport workers, but I also saw people with luggage (and a throng of “transit tourists” like me). How presumptuous to assume that the only people that would be inclined to take the train into the city would be workers and backpackers.
And yes, it is possible to travel on the train with luggage. In fact, I once travelled from London’s Heathrow Airport on the Tube with my family and 11 bags of varying sizes. I remember it was 11, because as we got off of every train in the UK and the Netherlands, we counted the bags to make sure we had them all. In fact, I have taken the train to and from the airport in the following cities:
Sure some people will continue to take a cab from the airport. It has some very real benefits, but most travellers want to make their travel dollars go further, and as such will opt for the train. While it’s still early to trumpet the success of the Olympic Line, some taxi drivers are complaining that they are waiting longer for fares at the airport, because fewer travelers are hailing cabs, since the route opened.
Back to the train itself. On the station platform, an automated voice announced the destination of inbound and outbound trains, and signs displayed the waiting time of the next train. Large picture windows at the front of the train offered up excellent views for passengers. And as we zoomed beneath the city streets, one young girl said it was just like riding a roller coaster. And that's my kind of roller coaster...one without the steep drops.
Name aside, when I arrived at the airport I thought to myself that with this one line Vancouver’s transit system had just grown up, and Vancouver itself had matured.