50% increase in ridehailing use at Vancouver International Airport

A sizeable proportion of air passengers continue to use public transit to get to Vancouver International Airport (YVR).

In her annual update to Vancouver City Council last week, Vancouver Airport Authority president and CEO Tamara Vrooman says public transit serving YVR — specifically SkyTrain Canada Line — continues to be “fully used,” with over 20% of passengers using public transit.

This is comparable to the pre-pandemic proportion, when YVR reported 21% of air passengers in 2018 used the Canada Line.

TransLink’s latest ridership statistics for 2023 also show a very strong ridership recovery at the three SkyTrain stations that serve the airport’s island.

Last year, YVR Airport Station saw total annual boardings of 2.8 million passengers, making it the 22nd busiest SkyTrain station out of 54 stations. It saw averages of 7,800 passengers per weekday, 7,200 per Saturday, and 7,600 per Sunday/holiday. This is up from 2.23 million in 2022 but still down from 3.14 million in 2019.

Templeton Station saw 1.27 million boardings in 2023, with averages of 3,400 per weekday, 3,700 per Saturday, and 3,800 per Sunday/holiday. This is up from 1.05 million in 2022, but still down from 1.31 million in 2019. As SkyTrain’s 37th busiest station, Templeton Station’s ridership is driven by the activity of McArthurGlen Vancouver Airport Outlet Centre mall, YVR’s long-term parking lot, and Sea Island employers such as the Canada Post processing centre, which is planning a major expansion.

Sea Island Station, the second least busiest station on the network, saw 312,000 passengers in 2023, representing a significant increase from 2022 and almost reaching 2019 levels. It primarily serves airport operations employees.

Overall, the Canada Line averaged 120,000 passengers per weekday in 2023. Data also shows YVR Airport Station is on average busiest between 6 am and 7 pm and between 2 pm and 5 pm on weekdays.

Vrooman expressed a desire to see longer operating hours on the Canada Line that run later in the overnight hours and begin earlier in the morning hours, perhaps 24/7, given that many passengers arrive for very early flights scheduled at 5 am and 6 am.

Currently, the first train departing Waterfront Station to YVR Airport Station is at 4:48 am, which means the first train arriving at the airport terminal is at about 5:14 am. The first train leaving YVR Airport Station to Waterfront Station is at 5:07 am. Trains between YVR Airport Station and Waterfront Station run about every 12 minutes for roughly the first two hours of service, before entering increased frequencies during the morning peak period.

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YVR Airport Station on SkyTrain Canada Line. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

But the most notable ground transportation modal update is the recent drastic increase in the use of ridehailing services such as Uber and Lyft.

According to Vrooman, over the past 18 months, the use of ridehailing services at the airport have soared by 50%.

However, she says the increase in ridehailing use is not coming at the expense of public transit and taxis, which has been holding its market share.

Vrooman emphasized ridehailing’s growth comes from fewer drop-off, pick-up, and other single-purpose vehicle trips coming to the airport, such as fewer friends and families driving to the airport to perform drop-off and pick-up trips.

Vrooman also shared that the airport authority is working with the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on studying a potential new replacement crossing for the 1957-built, two-lane, eastbound-only swing Moray Bridge that directly links the main airport access road of Grant McConachie Way with Sea Island Way in North Richmond. They are analyzing how a new crossing can improve access to Highway 99, with the existing Moray Bridge also being a critical regional route between Vancouver and Richmond via the Arthur Laing Bridge.

With YVR looking to increase its air cargo volumes, which has seen steady growth lately, she says the airport authority is cognizant of the need to create ground transportation strategies for cargo that do not send trucks through communities.

Additionally, Vrooman shared that YVR recently doubled its labour force to improve operations and service standards.

As reported by Daily Hive Urbanized earlier this year, Vancouver International Airport recorded an annual total of 24.94 million passengers in 2023, representing YVR’s third highest year ever for passenger volumes — nearing the all-time record of 26.38 million in 2019.

YVR is also off to a very strong start to 2024, based on the latest available statistics. Over the first four months of 2024, YVR recorded 8.03 million passengers — up from 7.4 million over the first four months of 2023, and nearing the 8.13 million recorded over the same period in 2019.