All aboard the Canada Line to welcome the world

The world waits to board the Canada Line at Waterfront Station...

Tourism Vancouver expects as many as 350,000 visitors to pour into the city for the Olympics and judging by the recent rush-hour line-ups for the Canada Line, they’re already here.

I was an obedient Canadian and followed TransLink‘s recommendations to park the car and “travel smart” during the 2010 Winter Games, so I’ve been riding a lot of public transit since the start of the month.

I’m using ’em all: SeaBus, SkyTrain, streetcar, bus. But for a diehard people-watcher like me, the Canada Line (from Waterfront Station to YVR and suburban Richmond) is my favourite way to travel through the city.

I headed out to the airport yesterday to scope out the new public observations decks–a great day-trip for the digger-and-dumper set, by the way–and the Coke official pin trading centre on the domestic level.

The pin trading thing is one Olympic sport that until very recently held absolutely no appeal for me.

Then I was given BBC‘s Olympic pin for my birthday and was suddenly launched into this gregarious and slightly obsessive barter community that surrounds every Olympic event.

At several spots around Vancouver–notably The Bay’s Olympic Superstore, the Canada Place plaza and YVR–so-called “pinheads”  gather to swap pins and tales.

On the short trip aboard the Canada Line to YVR (downtown to the airport in under half an hour, including a brief wait at Waterfront), my pin-covered briefcase flap caught the attention of Billy, a retired postal worker on her way back from her thrice-weekly mahjong game with friends in the city.

“You must be a VIP,” she announced loudly. Heads turned.

Paul, a visitor from Hong Kong, travels between The Bay and YVR on the Canada Line to trade pins

“I’m riding the train, just like you,” I said. “I guess that makes us both VIPs.”

“But you have so many pins,” she said. “I collect pins. And airline playing cards.”

And so it began, an instant camaraderie held together by a couple of pieces of brightly coloured metal.

When she got off at Oakridge clutching my Destination2010 pin, Isaac claimed her seat. He was on the way to the airport to collect his wife who’d been away in the Philippines since November.

He noticed my pins too and offered his opinion that the Olympics are costing too much, but that they were also “a blessing in disguise, because without them, we wouldn’t have this train.”

At YVR, I headed for the viewing lounge on the fourth floor of the domestic terminal and watched a couple of WestJet flights come and go, then headed back down a level to the Coke pin trading centre.

Kids were lined up to have their picture taken with an Olympic Torch: for $12, they could have it mounted on a pin. Over at the trading tables I met Paul, a visitor from Hong Kong who came to visit relatives in Vancouver and “discovered a new hobby”–pin trading.

He uses the Canada Line to shuttle back and forth between the airport and The Bay downtown. He showed off his pride-and-joy pin–a Cold-FX pin with a moveable hockey goalie–but I had nothing worthy to trade for such a treasure.

On the return trip downtown, the train was more crowded, but much quieter: the ravages of modern air travel, no doubt.

The couple in front of me was kitted out in Olympic gear. They peered at a city map, speaking quietly in German and pointing out landmarks as they whizzed by.  The worker bees who joined the train along the route lost themselves in their i-Tunes. I checked the news on my Blackberry.

I went as far as Waterfront Station where the line-ups were holding steady: the crowd-control staff from TransLink said the waits were about three or four minutes. No one seemed too upset.

As I passed the line, a hand reached out and pointed to my bag: “Wanna trade?”

Tagged: , , , ,

Comments are closed for this post

4 Responses to All aboard the Canada Line to welcome the world