Illustration of Vancouver building fronts
March 15, 2019
6 mins read

The busser's guide to Vancouver

The UBC Life Commuter Guide

I grew up in Kelowna, BC, where the nearest bus stop was 2 kilometres away—straight up a mountain. This might sound like a story your grandpa tells when you complain about bad wifi connection, but it’s true!

Needless to say, when I arrived at UBC, the transit system seemed like an impassable labyrinth and the 99 bus reminded me of that crazy worm from the Dune movie (here's footage of me trying to board the bus).

Three years later, I ride the bus each day to campus and could do it in my sleep (when I had a 9:00 am class, I often did). Still, I look back fondly on the days when getting on the 25 was an Odyssean voyage.

With papers, labs, and exams to juggle, you might find leaving campus daunting and impractical. However, mixing up your routine and exploring the city is a great way to maintain a fresh and positive mindset.

So, I’ve created a guide to major bus lines that run from campus, where they stop, and where they can take you. As you’ll discover, each bus has its own unique personality, just like your friends!

So get your U-Passes out, and get ready to explore Vancouver!  

Bus lines

Click on a link to explore a specific bus line, or scroll through to browse them all!

The 99

The 84

The 25

The 49

The 41

The 99

Let’s face it, the 99 is the mitochondria powering the cell that is UBC. The 99 is the friend that takes 6 classes, acts as an executive for 3 clubs, and knows everyone on campus. You wonder if they sleep and where they get their energy from.

Where from

The 99 stops at Bay 7 of the bus loop (the closest one to Wesbrook Mall), as well as Allison Road right outside of the McDonalds in the University Village.

Where to

If you’re looking to quickly travel anywhere in the city, this is the bus for you. Sasamat, the first stop off campus, has a choice selection of sushi restaurants and my beloved Bean Around the World coffee shop, where you’ll find the best Americano in town! Hop out at the Macdonald Street stop (2 stops down) and wander around PulpFiction Books, or walk down to the Public Library for a new study spot.

Carry on to the Cambie stop and transfer to the Skytrain station for all your downtown needs, or check out all the hip coffee shops and vintage threads at the Main Street stop nearby. I’d start by giving Mintage Mall a browse for some funky clothes at a favourable price.

If you’re feeling particularly intrepid, ride on to Commercial to sample the best Ethiopian food in town (my heart is torn between Harambe and Addis Cafe), or take in a poetry reading at Cafe Deux Soleils. All this, just one bus away!

Illustration of buildings along the 99 bus route

The 84

The 84 has run 5 kilometres and done a yoga class before I’ve woken up. The 84 is your friend that knows about vitamins, shops local, makes their own trail mix, and feels happiest near the ocean.

Where from

Catch the 84 from Exchange Bay 2 in front of the Walter Gage towers.

Where to

On a sunny day, hop out at Tolmie Street and walk down to the stunning Locarno Beach. Choose the Alma stop and treat yourself to a piece of organic pie from Aphrodite’s, or nestle up with a read at Banyen Books.

The Naam is an essential Vancouver experience—not just for vegetarians! The restaurant is open all night long and is only steps away from the Macdonald stop.

Looking to get some shopping done? The Burrard stop is for you! Mosey up the stretch of Kits retailers, such as Patagonia and Arc’teryx, or wander down to Be Fresh Market for some organic produce. Zulu Records is a necessary stop for all music lovers but if you’re like me, this is a bad move for the budget.

One stop over, at Fir Street, you’ll find the entrance to Granville Island. With its famous marketplace and assortment of artisanal shops, Granville Island is a great place to spend a morning when the parents come to town. While you’re there, enjoy some theatre at the Granville Island Stage.

Finally, keep going to Ontario Street for a scoop of ice cream at Earnest—it’s well worth the journey.

Illustration of buildings along the 84 bus route

The 25

The 25 makes awesome plans to hang out at quirky places around the city. The 25 is then late for all of these plans. The 25 got a new iPhone, lost that new iPhone, and then found it again. The 25 is late to their own birthday. They’re incredibly disorganized but all the more loveable for it.

Where from

The 25 makes multiple stops along Wesbrook Mall, from Exchange Bay 8 to Wesbrook Village.

Where to

The 25 offers unparalleled access to the hiking, biking, and walking trails of Pacific Spirit Park. All stops from Pacific Spirit Park down to Discovery Street feature entrance points to the fresh air of the forest. For the next little while, the bus passes through residential areas without many noteworthy places to stop, but pay attention around the Balaclava stop for some beautiful city views.

If you’re craving some bubble tea, Dragon Ball Tea House at Oak has you covered! If hot pot is more to your taste, Landmark on Cambie is one of my favourite spots in town. 

The 25 thrives on Main Street. In my opinion, some of the best restaurants in town are within blocks of the stop, including Meet on Main. Or, if you’re in the mood for a laugh, visit the Little Mountain Comedy Community Centre for a variety of stand-up and improv performances.

Illustration of buildings along the 25 bus route

The 49

The 49 is the dynamic friend. They’re a classically trained cellist who loves punk music. They’ll hike a mountain in the morning and watch an entire season of Stranger Things with a bag of popcorn at night. They’re quiet and reserved, but in the right environment they’re boisterous and festive. For the astrologers amongst us, the 49 is a classic Aries.

Where from

You’ll find the 49 at Exchange Bay 6, adjacent to the 99 on Wesbrook. Like the 25, it stops multiple times along Wesbrook, as well as twice on 16th Avenue.

Where to

Heads up, golfers: the 49 is for you. The route passes by several fantastic courses, including the Point Grey Golf & Country Club (at the Blenheim stop), the McCleery Golf Course (at the McCleery stop), and the Langara Golf Course (at Alberta Street). Grab your clubs and get out there for a relaxing round on the greens!

The 49 also provides access to some beautiful local parks. Hop out at Killarney to check out Killarney Park or keep riding to Boundary for the delightful Central Park.

The real 49 surprise is found at the end of the line. Metropolis at Metrotown is the largest mall in Vancouver, and the third largest in the country. If you’re looking for it, Metrotown has it! Ride until the final stop, Metrotown Station, to access everything the shopping centre has to offer!

Illustration of landmarks along the 49 bus route

The 41

The 41 is the more mysterious twin of the 99. While they’re both dizzyingly popular, sometimes the 41 doesn’t show up for scheduled plans. Other times, the 41 arrives early and seems frustrated when you arrive on time. While it sometimes feels like the 41 is too busy to make time for you, they always show up when you need them most.

Where from

The 41 leaves from Exchange Bay 7, before making stops along Wesbrook.

Where to

After traveling off campus, the first exciting 41 destination is Kerrisdale Village, accessible from the Yew stop. The Village features a cute stretch of shops catering to a variety of tastes and needs. I generally stick to the Salvation Army Thrift Store for cheap finds, but there’s a whole lot more within walking distance. Head across the road and treat your sweet tooth at my favourite bakery, Fauborg.

If you’re in need of some fresh air, carry on to the Columbia stop and walk over to Queen Elizabeth Park. The Blossom Festival in April is one of the Vancouver highlights of the year. Beside the Park, visit the Hillcrest Aquatic Centre for a dip in the pool.

Finally, if you’re looking for a new late-night study spot, give Duffin’s Donuts at Knight Street a try.

Illustration of buildings along the 41 bus route

Wow, I’m exhausted just thinking about all the possibilities. While it may seem overwhelming at first, you’ll be a transit expert in no time.

Before you get out there, I strongly recommend downloading the Transit App to keep track of departure times. This app is a lifesaver each morning when I’m running late for class.

Exploring the city is a great way to gain new perspectives and shake up your routine, especially in a city as vibrant as Vancouver. Luckily, there’s an awesome group of buses to help you out. Whether you identify with the boisterous 99, or the bashful 49, the Vancouver transit system has something for everyone.

Happy travels!