A Heat Map of Public Transit Use in Vancouver

Vancouver Skytrain

Vancouver was relatively late to the game in Canada when it came to building a modern rapid transit system, opening its first Expo line in 1985, many decades after Canada’s first subway came online under Toronto’s Yonge Street in 1954. And while Vancouver’s efficient SkyTrain system maintains relatively modest ridership numbers compared to its counterparts in Toronto and Montreal, talks of expansion to serve the ever-growing transit needs of this bustling city are continually being put forward.

As with our earlier transit heat map of Toronto, we wanted to take a high level view of the system and examine where residents in Greater Vancouver rely on public transit the most. Using data from the 2011 National Household Survey, we sliced up the Vancouver area into census tracts, and mapped what percentage of employed residents in each area use public transit as their main mode of transport to get between home and work.

Not surprisingly, some of the highest usage areas are along the Expo line, Skytrain’s very first line built for Expo 86. A significant amount of high density housing has been constructed along the line since then, which has translated to a notable reliance on public transit in those areas, including the area around Metrotown Station, which has the city’s highest usage (52.2%).

The Millennium and Canada lines were built far more recently, and the data suggests residents along those routes tend to rely somewhat less on public transit for their daily commutes. A notable exception is in the area near the Lougheed Town Centre, which was built up even before the SkyTrain arrived in the 2000s. Here, upwards of 37% of residents take public transit to work.

As we observed in Toronto, residents of certain wealthy areas tend to rely less on public transit, even when in relatively close proximity to stations. Shaughnessy, which was recently declared the most expensive housing market in the country, exhibits remarkably low usage (11.5%).


Statistics Canada collects public transit usage data for employed residents over the age of 15. Public transit must be a resident’s main mode of transport to travel between home and work to count, as opposed to walking, cycling, driving, etc. Census tracts represent the most granular slicing of a city that Statistics Canada looks at, and typically represents an area with between 2,500 and 8,000 residents.

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  • Notice the Marpole hot spot (south end of Granville Street) as much use as Skytrain neighborhoods

    • peakie

      Cheap rentals at those spots. Often places with little on-street parking per household, they can’t (or possibly won’t) afford a car.
      Kingsway (the Skytrain route along the old interuban line, has always had the poor.

    • Mark Lister

      Also, the east border of the Marpole area is Cambie Street, so at least part of this neighbourhood is using the Canada Line (Marine Drive station). That would explain some of the high ridership.

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  • Lysenko’s Nemesis

    Funny that they show more using transit in east Richmond, which is really all ALR fields, than much of central Langley.

  • Kristie

    I think that more people would use the Canada Line if they could actually get on the Canada Line. It is always full from the riders from Richmond.

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  • naysayer

    I see some seriously hot spots on both public transit routes leading to North Vancouver in the map above but no mention of it in the text. I suppose it makes sense to ignore since nobody seems interested in fixing the crappy connections in this region.