Vancouver's streetcar system began on 28 June 1890 and ran from the (first) Granville Street Bridge to Westminster Avenue (now Main Street). Less than a year later, the Westminster and Vancouver Tramway Company began operating Canada's first interurban line between the two cities, which encouraged residential neighbourhoods outside the central core to develop. The British Columbia Electric Railway became the company that operated the urban and interurban rail system, until 1958 when its last vestiges were dismantled in favour of "trackless" trolley and gasoline/diesel buses. Vancouver currently has the second largest trolley bus fleet in North America after San Francisco.

City councils, as part of a long term plan, prohibited the construction of freeways in the 1980s. The only major freeway within city limits is Highway 1, which passes through the north-eastern corner of the city.

While the number of cars in Vancouver proper has been steadily rising with population growth, the rate of car ownership and the average distance driven by daily commuters have fallen since the early 1990s. Vancouver is the only major Canadian city with these trends. Despite the fact that the journey time per vehicle has increased by one third and growing traffic mass, there are 7% fewer cars making trips into the downtown core. Residents have been more inclined to live in areas closer to their interests, or use more energy-efficient means of travel, such as mass transit and cycling. This is, in part, the result of a push by city planners for a solution to traffic problems and pro-environment campaigns. Transportation demand management policies have imposed restrictions on drivers making it more difficult and expensive to commute while introducing more benefits for non-drivers.

TransLink is the organization responsible for roads and public transportation within Metro Vancouver. It provides a bus service, including the B-Line rapid bus service, a foot passenger and bicycle ferry service (known as SeaBus), a two-line automated rapid transit service called SkyTrain, and West Coast Express commuter rail. Vancouver's SkyTrain system is currently running on two lines, the Millennium Line and the Expo Line. A new metro line called the Canada Line is near completion and will be completed before Labour Day, 2009.

Changes are being made to the regional transportation network as part of the Gateway Program. Current projects include the Canada Line, a rapid-transit line that will connect Vancouver International Airport and the neighbouring city of Richmond with the existing SkyTrain system. There are also plans to extend the SkyTrain Millennium Line west to UBC as a subway under Broadway and capacity upgrades and an extension to the Expo Line. Many other road projects will be completed within the next few years, including the Golden Ears Bridge.

Inter-city passenger rail service is operated from Pacific Central Station by VIA Rail to points east; Amtrak Cascades to Seattle; and Rocky Mountaineer rail tour routes.

Small passenger ferries operating in False Creek provide commuter service to Granville Island, Downtown Vancouver and Kitsilano.

Vancouver has a city-wide network of bicycle lanes and routes, which supports an active population of cyclists year-round.

Vancouver is served by Vancouver International Airport (YVR), located on Sea Island in the City of Richmond, immediately south of Vancouver. Vancouver's airport is Canada's second busiest airport, and the second largest gateway on the west coast of North America for international passengers. HeliJet and three float plane companies Salt Spring Air, Harbour Air and West Coast Air operate scheduled air service from Vancouver harbour and YVR south terminal. The city is also served by two BC Ferry terminals. One is to the northwest at Horseshoe Bay (in West Vancouver), and the other is to the south, at Tsawwassen (in Delta).

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