Vancouver transportation
March 18, 2007 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Help me gauge transportation options and travel distances in Vancouver, BC.

I have read through the other Vancouver-related posts, but this is a different kind of question from where to go for good coffee or free wifi. My mom and I are meeting up for a visit to Vancouver next week and I need to know whether we should rent a car or not. If it were just me, I would stick to public transportation exclusively; my mom is game in theory but she has not-very-good feet. The transit system seems to be great, but my last visit to V-BC was when I was a little kid so my sense of scale is hazy at best and the various guides I picked up from the library don't offer much in this regard.

* If we're staying downtown (Kingston Hotel) and most of our activities will be in downtown, Granville Island, South Granville, and Kitsilano, will public transit keep my mom from being on her feet a lot thereby wearing her out early in the day?
* If we did rent a car, would we spend half our time just looking for parking, since we'll be in close-in, busy neighborhoods?
* Are transit transfers well-synched? (E.g., in Seattle arrivals and departures at busy transfer points are coordinated, but in San Francisco they've never heard of the idea)
* There's a yummy sounding Lebanese place on West Broadway. If we take the AquaBus from downtown to Stamp's Landing, is West Broadway an easy walk or really far?
* It looks like plenty of lines run over to UBC. Is that a long trip?
* Is sounds like if we wanted to take a ferry over to Victoria for a day trip, we'd need to rent a car for that day at least. True?

Thanks for the advice! And don't worry about weather warnings -- we have both lived in the Pacific Northwest.
posted by umbĂș to Travel & Transportation around Vancouver, BC (21 answers total)
* Is sounds like if we wanted to take a ferry over to Victoria for a day trip, we'd need to rent a car for that day at least. True?

Probably. One ferry ride starts outside Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) and goes to Nanaimo. You then have about an hour's drive from Nanaimo to Victoria.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:22 PM on March 18, 2007

I'll leave the transit questions to others with more knowledge than I but you can easily take a bus that will take you from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria. The bus drives right onto the ferry, so there aren't any transfers to make. Check out Pacific Coach Lines. I'd imagine you'll save taking the bus over a car because the ferry alone will be about ~$60 each way for two people and a car.
posted by ssg at 4:28 PM on March 18, 2007

Just to make sure this is clear: driving or taking the bus, you take the ferry from Tsawwassen (south of Vancouver) to Swartz Bay (north of Victoria) if you are traveling from Vancouver to Victoria. Horseshoe Bay is for traveling to Nanaimo or the Sunshine Coast.
posted by ssg at 4:34 PM on March 18, 2007

And also, if you don't mind spending the extra cash and want to have BC experience, you can take a float plane from downtown Vancouver to downtown Victoria.
posted by ssg at 4:40 PM on March 18, 2007

Give Translink Trip Planner a look.

Plug in the street address (or popular location) of an origin and a destination, and either departure or arrival time and it'll give you at least one detailed result (ie., what time to be at what stop, how many transfers - if any, total trip time, and how far you may have to walk).

By playing around with it you may get a better feel for how much walking you may have to do.
posted by porpoise at 4:57 PM on March 18, 2007

Bus lines downtown are very rapid - and in relation to the parking question, you'll probably get tired out much faster finding an available parking spot in the high traffic areas (albeit better that you're visiting in the winter). If you do decide to park, be prepared to shell out $8 for one of the Impark parkades. Meter / free parking can be really tiresome to find.

In terms of transfers: If you're staying downtown and on the broadway corridor, between 6 am and 10pm.. most lines are 15 minutes or less between busses. I'd say most spots have a variety of lines that meet up at the same places, so the most you ever have to wait is 5 minutes for a bus going in the direction you want to. YMMV.

Stamp's Landing to Broadway = ~8 blocks, uphill, then West or East in whichever direction you want to go. Far better to bus that route if you want to save your mom some hardish walking. Save the Aquabus ride for going to Granville island. Saves a *ton* of walking. Just get to the Aqua center, and it's a 5 minute ride across.

You would take the Tsawwassen not Horseshoe Bay. Getting there is definitely doable from Downtown via Bus (one of my coworkers used to commute that distance via public transportation). Once you land in Victoria, there's a bus that'll take you from the terminal to downtown.

Unless you're looking to go out late, Vancouver has a really great public transportation system. I hate driving, so that probably taints my opinion, but I think you should be great without a car. Take the money you save by not renting, and hop in a cab for $5.
posted by Vantech at 5:17 PM on March 18, 2007

One followup...

Just remembered that ferrying with a car is significantly more expensive than foot trafficking across. It's something like $10 per person versus $60 for a car. The only consideration is that if you have a ton of luggage that you're carrying with you, you can't block seats or exits.
posted by Vantech at 5:20 PM on March 18, 2007

The buses to UBC are very frequent. You'd take any one of a few routes that goes over the Granville Bridge, and then switch to a westbound express (B-Line) at Broadway.

As for the Lebanese place (Habibi's?) I'd agree that you wouldn't want to walk up the hill. Just take a bus across to Broadway. Vancouver doesn't have the greatest public transit around, but for the places you're going you'll do fine. Things are frequent enough that you won't have to worry about synchronization (which they do, btw, at least some of the time.)
posted by maledictory at 5:41 PM on March 18, 2007

If you plan to stay downtown, public transit will be fine, but it'll suck if it's pouring out.

I second the Pacific Coach Lines option for Victoria. It takes you right downtown where again, everything is generally walkable.

There is also a great option in the Trolley tours. These are hop-on hop-off and run all day. They'll take you all over the place.
posted by Salmonberry at 6:10 PM on March 18, 2007

I'm really just confirming what others said.

I agree if you're staying in downtown Victoria, you don't want a car. If you want Butchart gardens and those things, I can't say. Bus on the ferry is convenient, and car on the ferry is ridiculously expensive.

Vancouver, the bus is all you need, and the odd taxi if you are feeling impatient for the bus at some point. Your mom won't want to climb the hill up to Habibi's after walking around Granville Island half the day, where parking is beyond ridiculous. Connections to the sticks (Langley, etc) are not good, but you seem to want to stay in town. It's 30-45 mins to UBC, depending on time of day.
posted by Listener at 6:16 PM on March 18, 2007

It's also entirely possible (but not perfect) to take transit to the ferry terminal at Tsawwassen, the ferry to Schwartz Bay North of Victoria, then a connecting bus to downtown Victoria.

Walk-on ferry passengers to this all the time, and connecting bus routes (in Victoria at least) are synced to the arrival of the ferries.
posted by generichuman at 6:27 PM on March 18, 2007

Definitely don't rent a car if you'll be hanging around downtown Vancouver for most of the time. Heck, I live in the 'burbs and I still don't own a car (although I probably walk a lot further than your mom would want to)!

For the trip to Victoria... As mentioned above, Pacific Coach Lines operates a shuttle that will pick you up in downtown Vancouver and drop you off in downtown Victoria.

Although it is possible to take public transit to the ferry terminal in Vancouver - and also into downtown Victoria once you reach the other side - it is a long and frustrating process.

If you feel like splurging you can also take Harbour Air from Vancouver to Victoria. Much quicker than the ferry, but also much more expensive. (Although if you're a student they have a $50 standby fare deal)
posted by sanitycheck at 6:43 PM on March 18, 2007

Oh also, no one else has mentioned this yet but you can get day passes for the transit system here. Much more economical than tickets if you plan to be using the bus more than a couple times a day.

You can buy them at Skytrain stations and pretty much anywhere that sells bus tickets.

And if you're planning on heading to UBC, the fastest way from downtown is to take the #44 bus. You can catch it at various places along Burrard Street downtown, and it goes directly to UBC - no transfer required. I'd say it's about a half hour trip - maybe a little more during rush hour.
posted by sanitycheck at 6:47 PM on March 18, 2007

Actually that's a really good point - stay the hell off transit during rush hour. They don't have enough buses serving the downtown, and if it's raining you'll be on very crowded buses with very tired and impatient commuters.
posted by Salmonberry at 7:25 PM on March 18, 2007

"* Is sounds like if we wanted to take a ferry over to Victoria for a day trip, we'd need to rent a car for that day at least. True?"

Even taking a car you're going to spend at least 6-7 hours getting to Victoria and back which doesn't leave a lot of time to do anything in Victoria. If you can arrange an over night in Victoria you'll get a lot more out of your trip. Even catching the 9:00pm ferry and checking in at 11:00 would give you a good day in Victoria and still allow you to come back at 5pm and therefor still light enough to catch the scenery on the way back.

Also whenever possible I like to try and take one of the super ferries. Much better on board facilities and less wave action.
posted by Mitheral at 7:38 PM on March 18, 2007

If you're out at UBC, do check out the Anthropology Museum. As for food, there's a new Mongolian Barbeque place in 'the Village.' Otherwise, Sage's is 'ok.' Almost anywhere else on campus is pretty lacking. Cafe Crepe is 'ok,' too.

I'm not familiar with the #44 anymore, but catching a 'Southbound' 98 to Broadway @ Granville, then going kittycorner across the street to catch the Westbound 99 should be the next best thing. Of course, in the mornings, the buses headed into UBC are busy and in the afternoon, the buses headed out of UBC. Since buses need to get to UBC in order to head out, trips in the afternoon to UBC are frequent (sometimes every 5-7 minutes) and uncrowded.

If you're thinking of Wreck Beach, be aware that there's a bit of a walk downhill, and uphill on the way back. Yes, the people with the bumbags (and well, not much else) are already out this time of year.
posted by porpoise at 8:26 PM on March 18, 2007

Also, the #4 and #19 bus go to UBC from downtown (no connection required). It is a long-ish trip, 30 or 40 minutes.

Wreck beach - "a bit of a walk" is generous. You have go down a staircase with 400 wooden steps.

I rely on the buses to get around and I rarely have to wait for than 15 minutes for anything. I think you'll be fine. If you do need to drive somewhere, take a cab; the streets are actualy pretty good for cars to get around, but parking is often difficult.
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:23 PM on March 18, 2007

Downtown Vic to downtown Van on the Pacific Coach Lines was 42$ each way, last time I took it. So, 85 bucks for two, 170 round trip. That's actually more than the ferry + car would be. For a day trip, only take the ferry if you want to see the view, and treat the journey as the destination, so to speak.
posted by Rumple at 10:45 PM on March 18, 2007

Rumple - Those fares seemed high so I checked and you are right! I guess my experience is coloured by the student discount I get on all this stuff! Once you factor in the cost of car rental it's probably still cheaper to go with Pacific Coach, though.

I think it is around $100 to take the floatplane (Harbour Air one way. It is quite the experience so I would save any money you were planning on spending on a rental car and splurge on that instead! Maybe fly one way and take the shuttle bus back?

If you decide to stay overnight in Victoria, check out Craigdarroch house at the University of Victoria. A hotel-style room and free breakfast for around $70! Definitely the best deal in town if you don't want to stay in a hostel.
posted by sanitycheck at 12:50 AM on March 19, 2007

I make the Victoria - Vancouver trip quite regularly. As others have said, you can easily take the PCL but I personally like to stick to public transit (I'd rather swipe my student card than pay the $30 each way). As long as you're traveling on a weekday, it should be easy as the buses are on a regular schedule. I would definitely advise against making a weekend trip over if you are going to rely on the public bus (BC Transit).

Check with the Translink Trip Planner linked above but here are the buses that I usually take to get around.

From Vancouver:
1. Take the 98 B-Line to Airport Station
2. Stand at Terminal 1 (you should be let out there from the previous bus)
3. Board the 620

enjoy the ferry ride

Once you dock at Swartz Bay (Sidney/Victoria)
Take any variation of the 70 and it'll take you straight downtown.
posted by 913 at 1:59 AM on March 19, 2007

Thank you so much for all the great responses!
posted by umbĂș at 6:42 AM on March 20, 2007

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