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5 things you (probably) didn't know about Vancouver's SeaBus

In all fairness, it's also North Vancouver's Seabus
5thingsseabus
From top left, clockwise: Passengers on the first trip across on the SeaBus, the original colours of the SeaBus, a SeaBus captain guides the boat, a Seabus making the crossing.

The SeaBus is one of Vancouver's iconic transit symbols.

Along with the SkyTrain, it's one of the most recognizable transit vehicles not just in Vancouver, but in B.C. (and probably Canada). And it's not just a quirky, fun tourist gimmick, it's an essential piece of commuter infrastructure with 9,000 boardings on the average workday in 2021.

Transit boats have been making the Burrard Inlet crossing for 45 years now. And while most people can recognize the squat, catamaran-style ship, they may not know these five things about the boats.

1. They were originally bright orange

Some people reading this will think this is common knowledge. This isn't intended to make you feel old, but we should point out they were repainted before Expo 86, over 36 years ago.

2. They were originally run by BC Hydro

That's right. The electric company ran the ferries. For those who know a bit about B.C.'s sometimes complex public transit, this may not be a surprise.

B.C. Electric Railway ran the street car system in Vancouver for decades before it was bought by the province in 1961. Operations of that system were moved over to the BC Hydro and Power Authority, which is the full name of BC Hydro.

It was during this time that the SeaBus was created, as the city was trying to figure out the best way to get people from North Vancouver to the rest of the city. The Urban Transit Authority, which became BC Transit, took over in 1979.

In 1999 TransLink was fully operational and took over.

3. At least two bands have taken their names from SeaBus doors

While many in Vancouver know where SeaBus Memes got his name, he wasn't the first to be inspired. Pop-punk rockers Exit This Side took their name from the doors on the Seabus.

And they weren't even the first punkers to do so; No Exit in 1980 took their name from essentially the same spot.

4. People used to pay with pennies to get really, really long tickets

The SeaBus was the first part of the Vancouver transit system to use ticket machines. However, unlike today's digital machines (or even the token machines from previously used) the first ones were very basic.

Essentially a photocopier, the ticket they printed showed the coins used to purchase the ticket. That means it was just an image of each coin.

That meant you could get really long tickets if you used a lot of coins, which kids of course did.

“Our transfers used to be about four feet long. I’m pretty sure we are the reason they changed it all. The drivers used to get mad,” Connie White told the North Shore News a few years ago.

5. It was commandeered by 'pirates' in 2008

If you took the SeaBus in March of 2008, you might have seen some pirates take over the boat.

Ok, so they weren't the pirates of the Caribbean, or Somalia or even Disneyland. 

They were activists with the Vancouver Public Space Network in a sort of flash mob, before they were a popular thing, and there was more music than looting going on.

Bonus

TransLink sells scale models of the SeaBus, so you have your own little transit boat.

Also, if you want to know a lot more about the SeaBus, check out the story from our sister publication the North Shore News from the SeaBus's 40th anniversary