With the 2010 Winter Olympics approaching, Vancouver, B. C., is opening a major light-rail line Monday that will whisk visitors and locals...

With the 2010 Winter Olympics approaching, Vancouver, B.C., is opening a major light-rail line Monday that will whisk visitors and locals between the city’s airport, downtown Vancouver and suburban Richmond, giving easy access to some major Olympic venues.

The Canada Line has 16 stations and about 12 miles of track on which automated trains will run, within tunnels in Vancouver and elevated in outlying areas. Construction of the $1.83 billion Canada Line began in 2005, severely disrupting traffic on some Vancouver streets, but it’s opening several months earlier than planned.

The city will host tens of thousands of people during the Feb. 12-28 Olympics, from athletes and officials to journalists and spectators. Private vehicles will be restricted in the city core, making public transit — especially the Canada Line and the existing SkyTrain network to which it links — the best way to get around. (Whistler will have very limited parking so buses will take many visitors there.)

To help visitors navigate the Vancouver area and Whistler, which are co-hosting the Olympics, The Seattle Times has launched an interactive online map showing Olympics venues and tourist sights. Use the map before or during the Olympics to get details on everything from skating venues and ski/snowboard sites to Vancouver museums and scenic walks. See the map here.

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Travelers also will have more ways to get to Vancouver. A second daily round-trip Amtrak Cascades train will begin running between Portland, Seattle and Vancouver on Aug. 19th and continue at least through the Olympics. Its start was delayed for a year by a dispute over a now-waived daily fee of about $1,370 that Canadian officials wanted Amtrak to pay for customs staffing at the Vancouver train station.

RV parks for Olympics

For visitors, the toughest competition is finding somewhere affordable to stay during the Olympics. Rooms remaining at major downtown Vancouver hotels are available mostly as part of Olympics event/room packages through CoSports, (the official ticketing/accommodations agency for U.S. visitors) and generally cost more than $1,000 per person per night, double occupancy.

To help provide more affordable accommodations, the Vancouver Board of Parks is turning parking lots at two beach parks into temporary RV camps during the Olympics.

About 365 sites will be available at Jericho Beach and Spanish Bank parks, on English Bay near the University of British Columbia. RVs can be a maximum of 30 feet long, said Philip Josephs of the park board. No hookups will be available, but there will be a mobile pump-out service and restrooms are available by the parking lots.

A campsite will cost about $87 a night, including shuttle service to the nearest station of the Canada Line. “No one will want to drive around Vancouver in an RV during the Olympics,” said Josephs.

A Web site for reservations is expected to go online within about a week. In the meantime, RVers can e-mail Josephs at philip.josephs@vancouver.ca to be notified when reservations open up.

Kristin Jackson: kjackson@seattletimes.com