Late night crowds ask 'How do we get home?'
Published Monday, February 22, 2010 8:02AM PST Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 10:02PM PDT
Amidst spontaneous renditions of ‘O Canada' and chants of ‘Go Canada Go,' a new battle cry is emerging every night on Granville Street: ‘How do we get home?'
With the last Canada Line SkyTrain leaving Waterfront Station almost two hours before downtown bars close at 3 a.m., hundreds upon hundreds of Olympic revelers – many of them angry – found themselves without a reliable way to get home Saturday night.
"We raise the flag with pride, but how do we get home Canada? Tell us, how do we get home?" one frustrated man yelled.
TransLink introduced a number of additional trips on many of its key routes to accommodate the surge of Olympic traffic. The SkyTrain Expo line is stopping service an hour later during the Games, its last trip leaving at 2:28 a.m. However, the last train times remain unchanged on the Canada Line – with the final departure leaving Waterfront Station at 1:15 a.m.
Stranded downtown without a ride, Katherine Green told CTV News the transit system should remain open later to account for the sea of partygoers in downtown Vancouver.
"I really think they should have kept it open almost 24 hours if not until four or five in the morning," she said. "It would have made sense for that."
Many shared her sentiment.
"What type of an Olympic city shuts down the public transit to people who know they're going to be out later until three in the morning?" one man asked.
With transit no longer an option, many turned to taxis, only to be met by more frustration.
Standing amid dozens of people hoping to catch a taxi on Granville Street, one hockey jersey-clad man said he had already waited 45 minutes to get a cab without success.
He told CTV News he had a plan to beat the masses of people also vying for a ride.
"Get in front of the crowd…that's the strategy," he said.
One North Vancouver resident said three cabs had stopped for him in a 30 minute period but refused to take his fare because he was crossing to the North Shore.
"It's ridiculous," he said. "They want to know where we're going before they pick us up. If we're not going close by they just drive by."
He said the transit problem is a black eye for Vancouver during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
"I'm a local so I'll deal with it but if I'm a visitor it's giving a really bad impression of Vancouver."
Transit adequate for crowds
TransLink says the Canada Line SkyTrain cannot extend its hours any later because it must be shut down for several hours every night for maintenance.
"It's a safety issue," spokesperson Peggy Hunt told ctvbc.ca.
Hunt says all Canada Line trains are running at full capacity during the Games.
"In order to keep those trains running at the capacity they need to be maintained," she said.
Hunt added that a night bus service kicks in when SkyTrain service ends, with the last service leaving downtown around 4:30 a.m.
"That should be plenty of time for the revelers to find their way home," she said.
TransLink could not provide a figure for the amount of time needed for trains to be shutdown each night.
Gold medal ridership
On Saturday, TransLink released figures showing a massive jump in transit during the first week of the Olympics.
The agency says an average of more than 1.6 million people a day used public transit in the first week. Bus ridership is up 34 per cent, and SeaBus ridership has jumped 200 per cent.
The SkyTrain Expo/Millennium line reached a single-day record of 488,000 last Sunday.
Hunt said it's critical to maintain each SkyTrain so the system continues to function.
"I can't imagine the fallout if those trains go down," she said.