With an optimistic spirit for the future, the “Millennium Line” was named after the new millennium to take Metro Vancouver’s SkyTrain network into the 21st century.

The initial span of the Millennium Line officially opened 21 years ago on January 7, 2002, establishing the region’s second SkyTrain line about 15 years after the opening of the original system in December 1985 — just ahead of Expo ’86.

And it was not until the Millennium Line’s opening that the “Expo Line” name was attached to the first SkyTrain route. Up until then, what is now known as the Expo Line was simply known as SkyTrain.

Under the direction of the provincial government in the late 1990s, the Millennium Line was also the first major project handled by the newly formed TransLink — a project handed over to Metro Vancouver’s separate public transit authority from BC Transit, which operated the region’s public transit system up until 1999.

In no particular order of importance, here are 21 factoids on the history of the Millennium Line, how the system works, and its future.

1. Nearly a street-level LRT line

Up until the late 1990s, the Millennium Line had been planned as a street-level light rail transit (LRT) system. While it was cheaper to build, it would have had slower travel speeds, longer travel times, lower reliability, lower frequencies, lower capacities, and resulted in road traffic disruptions. There was also less public support for LRT over SkyTrain.

Ultimately, a decision was made by the provincial government to build a seamless continuous extension of existing SkyTrain infrastructure — but with major improvements over the Expo Line.

millennium line lrt rendering

Late 1990s artistic rendering of the Millennium Line as a street-level LRT system. (Government of BC)

2. Different architects for each Millennium Line station

The stations on the Expo Line’s original segment between Waterfront Station and New Westminster Station take direct inspiration from the elevated and subway station designs of the U-Bahn in Vienna, Austria. This system is known for its highly conventional template designs for each station, using the same designs, materials, and layouts for each station typology.

But for the Millennium Line, a highly different approach was taken for its original 13 stations (including VCC-Clark, Braid, and Sapperton stations), with each station featuring a unique design by a prominent local architect. Unlike the Expo Line, there is no duplication in the designs of the stations, and they have become landmarks in their area.

Some original Millennium Line stations have been celebrated more than others, such as the award-winning Brentwood Town Centre Station, designed by Perkins&Will. Over the past two decades, the station serving Brentwood has become an icon for the area, with a double-curved, canoe-like futuristic structure built above the Lougheed Highway median, and the impressive use of wood materials to create a warm and inviting platform area.

skytrain brentwood town centre station

Platform level of SkyTrain’s Brentwood Town Centre Station. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

skytrain brentwood town centre station rendering

Early 2000s rendering of SkyTrain Brentwood Town Centre Station. (TransLink)

At least one retail space was also set aside for each station and there was an emphasis on a design that aligned with Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles, such as the extensive use of glass walls (instead of the Expo Line’s metal mesh panels) for both optimal visibility and natural light.

As well, unlike the Expo Line, the stations on both the Millennium Line and Canada Line were designed in a way to allow for the future installation of fare gates with relative ease.

There was a departure from the attention to detail to creating high-quality, unique, placemaking architecture for subsequent SkyTrain expansions, mainly due to the high cost of constructing more complex, unique designs. Instead of the Millennium Line’s approach of assigning a different architectural firm to each station, a handful of station architects were contracted for the Canada Line and Millennium Line’s Evergreen Extension and Broadway Extension, with each firm designing multiple stations.

skytrain lougheed town centre station rendering

Early 2000s rendering of SkyTrain Lougheed Town Centre Station. (TransLink)

skytrain sapperton station rendering

Early 200s rendering of SkyTrain Sapperton Station. (TransLink)

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Early 2000s rendering of SkyTrain Holdom Station. (TransLink)

3. Gilmore Station is definitely not a Taj Mahal

But one original Millennium Line station stands out from the rest: Gilmore Station. The station platform’s roof uses lower-quality wood materials, and it is supported by a simple conventional structural frame.

This station carries a far simpler design so that its components can be easily dismantled, allowing for the station to be more flexibly integrated into a future redevelopment.

Millennium Line planners had anticipated a major redevelopment project around the station and provided the station with a design that allowed for flexibility for integration. This is also why this particular station had a less-ambitious roof design compared to other stations on the same line.

skytrain gilmore station next train screen

SkyTrain Gilmore Station. (TransLink)

The area surrounding Gilmore Station is currently a construction zone, with the first buildings of the mixed-use Gilmore Place project — including the region’s first tower to exceed the height of the current tallest tower of Living Shangri-La — now beginning to wrap around the station.

As one of the developer’s public benefit contributions, there will be direct improvements to Gilmore Station over the coming years. Onni Group will construct new permanent canopies for the platform level of the station, replacing the “temporary” wooden panel canopies. The 8,200 sq ft roof that exists today was built in just four days.

gilmore place towers

Artistic rendering of Gilmore Place integrated with SkyTrain Gilmore Station. (Onni Group)

gilmore place construction skytrain

Reinforced SkyTrain columns foundations at the Gilmore Place construction pit next to SkyTrain Gilmore Station. (Chris Neima/submitted)

gilmore place construction december 4 2022

Construction progress on Gilmore Place next to SkyTrain Gilmore Station, as of December 4, 2022. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

4. Original Millennium Line was also built in phases

Not all of the original Millennium Line mainline opened in 2002. Lake City Way Station was completed in 2003 and VCC-Clark Station, the new westernmost terminus, opened in 2006.

vcc clark station skytrain millennium line

SkyTrain’s VCC-Clark Station on the Millennium Line. (Francl Architecture)

5. Alternate route options considered

During the planning process for the Millennium Line in the late 1990s, various alternate route options were considered, including the option of bringing the route underneath East Broadway immediately west of Commercial-Broadway Station to terminate with a station on the south side of the Vancouver Community College (VCC) campus.

Instead, the option of continuing the route within the Grandview Cut, through the False Creek Flats, and establishing VCC-Clark Station to the north of the campus was chosen for reasons of lower construction costs, and a greater potential to catalyze economic development in the False Creek Flats.

millenniuum line vcc route options skytrain 1999

SkyTrain Millennium Line route options between Commercial-Broadway Station and Vancouver Community College: the yellow coloured line represents the North Route elevated in the Grandview Cut to reach the False Creek Flats (chosen built option) and the red coloured line represents the South Option of tunnelling under Broadway west of the transit hub. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

For the project of bringing rail rapid transit towards Coquitlam City Centre, the Evergreen Extension, TransLink also considered various options of building an extension on the “southeast” route following Lougheed Highway (past Coquitlam IKEA and Riverview Hospital), as well as a high-level exploration of a line running from the Canada Line’s Marine Drive Station in South Vancouver.

North Fraser Rail Rapid Transit Line DMU

North Fraser Rail Rapid Transit Line DMU route between New Westminster and Coquitlam. (IBI Group/TransLink)

North Fraser Rail Rapid Transit Line DMU

DMU route map through South Vancouver, South Burnaby, and New Westminster. (IBI Group/TransLink/Daily Hive)

6. Millennium Line previously reached Waterfront Station

Up until October 22, 2016, the Millennium Line route took a looping path around the SkyTrain network — running between VCC-Clark Station and Waterfront Station, travelling along both the 2002-built Millennium Line route between VCC-Clark Station and Columbia Station and overlapping with the 1980s-built Expo Line route between Columbia Station and Waterfront Station.

The Millennium Line was re-routed just weeks ahead of the opening of the Evergreen Extension, effectively taking the Millennium Line between VCC-Clark Station and Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station. The original Millennium Line span between Columbia Station and Lougheed Town Centre Station became a new diverging segment of the Expo Line, with Expo Line trains terminating at Production Way-University Station.

The under-construction Broadway Extension to Arbutus and the future UBC Extension are both seamless westward extensions of the Millennium Line.

SkyTrain route map between January 2002 and October 2016; Expo Line (dark blue), Millennium Line (yellow), and Canada Line (light blue). The Millennium Evergreen Extension that opened in December 2016 is not depicted. (TransLink)

skytrain route map

SkyTrain route map after the rerouting starting in December 2016, including the Millennium Line Evergreen Extension; Expo Line (dark blue), Millennium Line (yellow), and Canada Line (light blue). (TransLink)

7. Second-generation SkyTrain cars

The Millennium Line was also a game changer for the SkyTrain car fleet.

Just in time for the Millennium Line’s opening, a total of 60 new generation cars, known as the Mark II, were added to the system. Additional orders of the original Expo-era Mark I car designed in the 1980s were now a thing of the past, with the last batch of Mark I cars arriving in 1995.

Compared to the original Expo-era Mark I car design, these sleek-looking Mark II trains from Bombardier offered greater comfort and capacity. The cars were configured in pairs, with an articulated connection allowing passengers to walk between two cars.

The aging Mark I cars will enter retirement later this decade when a new fleet of Mark V cars arrives. However, the first batch of Mark II cars still has about two decades worth of remaining lifespan.

skytrain mark ii cars downtown vancouver

SkyTrain Mark II trains in downtown Vancouver. (Shutterstock)

Interior of a SkyTrain Mark II train

Interior of a SkyTrain Mark II train. (Shutterstock)

8. Commercial Station and Broadway Station

As we know it today, Commercial-Broadway Station consists of two station structures for the Expo Line and Millennium Line, constructed in 1985 and 2002, respectively. However, up until 2009, this interchange station had separate names — Commercial Station for the Millennium Line platforms, and Broadway Station for the Expo Line platforms.

The renaming reduced some of the confusion and followed the conventional naming standards of having a single name for interchange stations. It was also done to avoid some of the confusion that could be expected from the name of the Canada Line’s Broadway-City Hall Station, which opened that same year.

skytrain commercial-broadway station

The pedestrian bridge over the Grandview Cut reaches the Millennium Line platforms of SkyTrain Commercial-Broadway Station. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

9. 99 B-Line to Commercial-Broadway Station Lougheed Mall

Metro Vancouver’s original B-Line service, the 99 B-Line, launched in 1996, and it initially operated a route that stretched between UBC and Lougheed Town Centre shopping mall, via Broadway and Lougheed Highway.

In 2002, when the Millennium Line opened, the 99 B-Line route was shortened to between UBC and Commercial-Broadway Station.

B-Line services have historically been a precursor to SkyTrain extensions, as was the case for the now-defunct 98 B-Line (replaced by the Canada Line) and the 97 B-Line (replaced by the Evergreen Extension). Upon opening in 2026, the Millennium Line’s Broadway Extension will replace the 99 B-Line’s segment between Arbutus and Commercial-Broadway Station, with the 99 B-Line running a truncated route between UBC and Arbutus Station.

arbutus station skytrain broadway extension

Artistic rendering of SkyTrain Arbutus Station, which includes a bus exchange to serve the truncated 99 B-Line route between UBC and Arbutus. (Government of BC)

10. Overhead cantilever truss system

The Millennium Line was the first SkyTrain project to use an overhead cantilever truss gantry system for constructing the elevated guideway. Prior to this project, this system had never been used in the province.

Using the crane, segments of the pre-fabricated concrete elevated guideway are lifted into place. When the segment between two columns is complete, the crane slides toward the next segment for assembly. This process reduces both the construction cost and timeline, compared to the method of using traditional ground-supported cranes to build the elevated guideway for the Expo Line.

skytrain evergreen guideway construction

Gantry crane used for the construction of the elevated guideway of the SkyTrain Millennium Line’s Evergreen Extension. (Government of BC)

11. Woodlands Station

A straight and flat section of Expo Line track (originally built for the Millennium Line) at the eastern portal of the New Westminster tunnel — near the intersection of McBride Boulevard and East Columbia Street — was intentionally designed to allow for a future additional station.

This station was never built and was dependent on the redevelopment of the now-demolished Woodlands School site, a psychiatric hospital for children.

woodlands station

Site of the potential SkyTrain Woodlands Station in New Westminster. (Google Maps)

12. The dip at Lake City Way Station

The Millennium Line east of the Grandview Cut runs on an elevated guideway while it parallels Lougheed Highway in Burnaby — except for a very short 100-metre-long span that reaches ground level just east of Lake City Way Station.

This ground-level track was built to avoid impacting the all-important, south-oriented satellites of Global BC’s production hub. As well, this section of track right outside the studio property is covered with a concrete roof to further reduce the likelihood of interference.

Including the elevated-ground transitions, the entire dipping span runs a length of about 500 metres.

lake city way station

The short section of ground-level track east of SkyTrain Lake City Way Station, with the Global BC satellite shown. (Google Maps)

13. Evergreen LRT

The “Evergreen Line” is still perpetuated by some transit users, but it does not actually exist, as this was the name of the project when it was planned as a street-level light rail transit project. It is officially the “Evergreen Extension” of the Millennium Line, but over time this name is expected to completely fade away as well.

After receiving over 1,400 entries in a public naming competition, Port Coquitlam resident Marion Harmer’s entry of the “Evergreen Line” was selected as the winning name by TransLink in 2005. The two shortlisted names were “Spirit Line” and “Evergreen Line.”

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2000s artistic rendering of the cancelled Evergreen LRT at Moody Station. (TransLink)

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2000s artistic rendering of the cancelled Evergreen LRT at Ioco Station (Inlet Centre Station). (TransLink)

In 2008, the provincial government directed TransLink to revert the project back to a seamless SkyTrain extension, after a business case found that SkyTrain provided greater capacity and speeds, lower travel times, lower operating costs, and higher ridership.

The travel time for LRT on the same route was 24 minutes, while the travel time for SkyTrain was 15 minutes — and without any need to switch trains at Lougheed Town Centre Station, unlike the LRT option.

Moreover, the SkyTrain option was only marginally more expensive than LRT, but provided significantly more benefits; SkyTrain cost $1.4 billion, while LRT cost $1.25 billion.

evergreen line lrt albert station

2000s artistic rendering of the Evergreen LRT’s Port Moody tunnel portal and Albert Station near Barnet Highway and Clark Street. (TransLink)

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2000s artistic rendering of the Evergreen LRT on Pinetree Way in Coquitlam. (TransLink)

14. Initial ridership “failure”

The original Millennium Line was regarded as a ridership failure over the first few years of its operations.

This contributed to the under-design of the Canada Line in the early 2000s, with its long-term capacity and optimal design constrained due in part to the limited budget allocated by the select mayors and city councillors that governed TransLink at the time. Some leaders on TransLink’s elected board cast doubt over the Canada Line’s ridership projections, which they deemed to be unrealistically high.

The Millennium Line’s lower-than-anticipated ridership was also a factor for the initial decision to pursue the Evergreen Extension as a street-level LRT instead of the original plans for a seamless SkyTrain extension to Coquitlam City Centre.

But the ridership was lower as the forecasts had assumed the completion of SkyTrain extensions to Coquitlam (Evergreen) and Broadway (reaching at least Cambie Street or Granville Street) soon after the original Millennium Line, all within the 2000s.

The Millennium Line between VCC-Clark and Sapperton stations saw stronger ridership growth in the second half of the 2000s. By 2007, ridership had grown by 55% to about 70,000 passengers per day over 2003 volumes, including close to 7,000 trips made to or from the Expo Line in Surrey and another 14,000 to or from the Expo Line’s New Westminster and South Burnaby stations.

In 2019, the Millennium Line’s Evergreen Extension ridership increased to an average of about 40,000 passengers per day.

skytrain coquitlam central station

SkyTrain Coquitlam Central Station on the Millennium Line Evergreen Extension. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

15. “Broadway Subway”

Just like how the “Evergreen Line” and “Evergreen Extension” monikers have faded away, do not get too used to the interim name and branding of “Broadway Subway.” This is merely a reference to the construction project for the westward extension of the existing SkyTrain Millennium Line reaching Arbutus.

When it opens in early 2026, the extension will add 5.7 km of route and six subway stations to the Millennium Line. It will increase the Millennium Line’s ridership significantly and enhance the regional connectivity of the SkyTrain network, with a major interchange between the Canada Line and Millennium Line platforms at Broadway-City Hall Station.

The provincial government estimates this extension will see between 135,000 and 150,000 riders per day in 2026, between 143,000 and 163,000 riders per day by 2030, and between 167,000 and 191,000 riders per day by 2045. The figure for 2045 takes into account the eventual seamless extension to UBC west of Arbutus.

With the extension, the travel time between Commercial-Broadway Station and Arbutus Station will be 12 minutes, with journeys to reach Broadway-City Hall Station for transfers to the Canada Line taking about six minutes from Commercial-Broadway Station. On a one-train ride between Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station in Coquitlam and Arbutus Station, the travel time will be 47 minutes, without any need for transfers.

broadway-city hall station hub

Diagram showing the interchange hub between the Millennium Line and Canada Line at Broadway-City Hall Station. (Government of BC)

16. Eventually reaching UBC

TransLink is in the process of planning the westward extension of the Millennium Line between Arbutus Station and UBC. It will be roughly six km with four additional stations, marking the end of the 99 B-line.

If all goes as planned, including securing funding, the extension to UBC could be completed by the early 2030s. It is identified as one of the 10-year priorities of Transport 2050.

The travel time between UBC and Commercial-Broadway Station would be about 20 minutes, based on TransLink’s previous studies in the 2000s.

translink ubc skytrain route options april 2022

TransLink’s recommended route and station locations for UBC SkyTrain, April 2022. (TransLink)

translink ubc skytrain route april 2022

Terminus station location for the UBC SkyTrain extension of the Millennium Line, April 2022. (TransLink)

17. Someday to Port Coquitlam?

A short stub track and track switch at Coquitlam Central Station was constructed as part of the Evergreen Extension to allow the capability for a future seamless eastward extension of the Millennium Line towards Port Coquitlam.

Under Transport 2050’s 10-year priorities, TransLink will explore achieving this short Millennium Line extension to reach Port Coquitlam.

The tracks towards the future Coquitlam Central Station platforms for trains to Port Coquitlam. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

coquitlam central station

There are four tracks on the Millennium Line west of Coquitlam Central Station, with two tracks (left) leading towards the existing station platforms and two other tracks (right) enabled by track switches allowing for a future extension to Port Coquitlam. (Canada Road, 4K Virtual Tour/YouTube screenshot)

18. The Hub acquisition at Commercial-Broadway Station

In 2018, TransLink acquired The Hub’s low-storey retail buildings on the northeast corner of the intersection of Commercial Street and Broadway — on the Millennium Line side of Commercial-Broadway Station. This includes the buildings with tenants such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Blenz Coffee, and A&W.

Sources previously told Daily Hive Urbanized this acquisition serves as both a real estate investment purpose and preserves space for a potential future expansion of the transit hub, specifically an additional platform for the Expo Line’s eastbound direction with an additional Broadway pedestrian overpass linking to the Millennium Line platforms. This would essentially mirror the 2019-built expansion of Commercial-Broadway Station.

Transfers made at Commercial-Broadway Station between the Expo and Millennium lines are expected to grow significantly with the completions of the Broadway Extension to Arbutus, UBC Extension, and the Surrey-Langley Extension.

2460 Commercial Drive

The Hub retail property at 2460 Commercial Drive, right next to SkyTrain’s Commercial-Broadway Station. (Avison Young)

2460 Commercial Drive Vancouver

The Hub retail buildings at 2460 Commercial Drive, right next to SkyTrain’s Commercial-Broadway Station. (Google Maps)

19. New Coquitlam OMC

Some construction work began last year on a new additional SkyTrain operations, storage, and maintenance facility, named OMC 4, just north of Braid Station. OMC 4 will directly link to the elevated guideway originally built for the Millennium Line route, now part of the Expo Line.

The 27-acre facility will have the capacity to accommodate nearly 400 SkyTrain cars serving both the Millennium and Expo lines. It is a critical facility to accommodate TransLink’s order of 205 new generation Mark V cars arriving later this decade.

This facility will be comparable to the size of SkyTrain’s existing operations, storage, and maintenance hub near Edmonds Station, which is also being expanded.

225 North Road Coquitlam SkyTrain OMC 4

Proposed layout of SkyTrain’s OMC 4 at 225 North Road, Coquitlam. (TransLink)

20. Brentwood Town Centre Station upgrades

Construction is currently underway on a major capacity and accessibility expansion to Brentwood Town Centre Station, including a reconstruction of the south entrance. The $33-million project will reach completion in 2024, providing added long-term capacity to serve the immense building development projects within the Brentwood area.

Other than the interchange upgrades for Commercial-Broadway Station and Lougheed Town Centre Station, this current project at Brentwood Town Centre Station is the first original Millennium Line station to receive major upgrades.

skytrain brentwood town centre station

Artistic rendering of the upgrade for SkyTrain Brentwood Station. (TransLink)

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Artistic rendering of the upgrade for SkyTrain Brentwood Station. (TransLink)

21. Production Way-University Station gondola terminal

Production Way-University Station is set to become a major interchange station — the transfer point to the terminal station for the gondola line to Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Mountain campus.

Major upgrades will be performed to the station to turn it into a multi-modal hub between SkyTrain and the gondola.

The gondola is part of TransLink’s Transport 2050 10-year priorities.

translink burnaby mountain sfu gondola route 1

Route 1 for the Burnaby Mountain Gondola between SkyTrain’s Production Way-University Station and the Simon Fraser University campus is a direct, straight-line route. (TransLink)

sfu burnaby mountain gondola production way

Conceptual illustration of the Burnaby Mountain Gondola from SkyTrain’s Production Way-University Station. (TransLink)

By Tara