February 24, 2010 / 4:44 PM / in 8 years

Trains and buses steal gold for Vancouver

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Vancouver’s driverless trains have been steady winners at the Winter Olympics during which passengers have poured on to a transit system that has stretched way beyond expected capacity but not snapped.

Vancouver’s Translink local transit system says usage has averaged 1.6 million people a day over the Games so far, more than twice the normal daily average of 750,000 and well above the pre-Games forecast of 1.1 million passengers.

It is standing room only on trains, ferries and buses, with lines of an hour and more to board a sure-to-be-crowded train.

“In general the equipment has run extremely well, and we’re pretty happy,” Translink’s head of communications Ken Hardie told reporters.

”A lot of people left their cars at home and the capacity held out. But the thing we’re happiest at is the attitude of the people. People in Vancouver normally don’t want to wait in line, but that’s not happened.

They have discovering that queuing is part of the Olympic spirit, and a chance to get to know that person standing next to you in a funny hat,” he added.

Translink operates bus services in Vancouver and its suburbs, ferry boats to downtown and the driverless Skytrain system, where lines are above ground in the suburbs and underground near the center.

The newest line, the Canada Line, links downtown with Vancouver airport and the suburb of Richmond. It is also billed as the best route to two Olympic venues, the Richmond Olympic Oval, where the speed skaters race, and the curling venue at the Vancouver Olympic Center.

“We had expected 150,000 or 160,000 people a day on the Canada line,” Hardie said. “We’re getting more like 220,000.”

For many, the still gleaming Canada Line will be the key legacy of the Games for Vancouver. Organizers say it was planned long before the games, although the Vancouver Olympic bid was crucial to win federal funding to help pay for it.

Editing by Ed Osmond

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