Port Moody and Surrey were the fastest growing cities in Metro Vancouver in the 2011 Census, spurring the region's population to grow rapidly.
Double digit growth was also recorded in Burnaby, Langley Township, New Westminster, Coquitlam and Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, according to data released Wednesday.
Surrey's population grew 18.6 per cent to 468,251, an increase of more than 73,000 since the previous count in 2006.
The City of Vancouver gained about 25,000 residents, or 4.4 per cent over the five-year period, to 603,502.
Port Moody climbed 19.9 per cent to 32,975. The nearly 20-per-cent gain happened despite Port Moody city council's decision a few years ago to restrict further development until the Evergreen Line SkyTrain extension is built.
Burnaby added 10.1 per cent to reach a population of 223,218 and is the Lower Mainland's third-largest city after Vancouver and Surrey.
Richmond added 9.2 per cent more people to reach 190,473.
Surrey accounted for one-quarter of the provincial gain and 37 per cent of Metro Vancouver's.
Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts predicted her city is on track to pass Vancouver's population in as little as 10 years.
Although Surrey gained nearly 50,000 residents relative to Vancouver, not everyone is convinced it will be B.C.'s biggest city any time soon.
Urban Futures demographer Ryan Berlin said Surrey would pass Vancouver in about 15 years if the pace of the last five continues.
"But will development in 15 years in Surrey be of the same scale and nature as it is today?" Berlin asked. "Probably not. So it probably won't be 15 years. I think we're looking at a couple of decades before Surrey passes Vancouver."
The city council policies of both cities is also a factor, he said, noting Surrey could opt to slow the pace of greenfield development and Vancouver might push harder to densify existing neighbourhoods, despite resident opposition.
Berlin said the most interesting population changes in the Lower Mainland were the strong gains posted by Squamish and Chilliwack.
The two outlying cities are about a 40-minute drive away from Metro Vancouver and offer much lower land prices than Vancouver, he said.
"I think that's why they experienced pretty significant growth – above what we experienced provincially and here in the Lower Mainland," he said.
"Instead of raising your kids in an apartment in Vancouver, maybe you choose a two-bedroom house, yard, swing set, Mr. Turtle pool – that kind of thing."
Cities that grew at the slowest rates – like Delta – did so generally because they didn't approve construction of very much new housing, Berlin said.
Metro Vancouver's strong growth overall is good, Berlin said, in terms of economic growth and the ability to pay for things like health care and schools.
But it has its downside.
"It puts pressure on land values, it puts pressure on our transportation network."
Immigration, much of it from Asia, remains the main driver of population growth.
Metro Vancouver as a whole gained almost 200,000 residents to reach a new population of 2,313,328 – a 9.3-per-cent increase.
B.C. gained seven per cent to 4.4 million.
Growth of Lower Mainland cities, ranked by size
- Vancouver – up 4.4 per cent to 603,502
- Surrey – up 18.6 per cent to 468,251
- Burnaby – up 10.1 per cent to 223,218
- Richmond – up 9.2 per cent to 190,473.
- Abbotsford – up 7.4 per cent to 133,497
- Coquitlam – up 10.4 per cent to 126,456
- Langley Township – up 11.2 per cent to 104,177
- Delta – up 3.3 per cent to 99,863
- North Vancouver District – up 2.2 per cent to 84,412
- Chilliwack – up 12.6 per cent to 77,936
- Maple Ridge – up 10.3 per cent to 76,052
- New Westminster – up 12.7 to 65,976
- Port Coquitlam – up 6.9 per cent to 56,342
- North Vancouver City – up 6.7 per cent to 48,196
- Langley City – up 6.3 per cent to 25,081
- White Rock – up 3.1 per cent to 19,339
- Pitt Meadows – up 13.5 per cent to 17,736
- Squamish – up 14.8 per cent to 17,158
- Whistler – up 6.2 per cent to 9,824
- Hope – down 3.5 per cent to 5,969
MAP: Where new people arrived
Above map prepared by staff at Metro Vancouver from new census data shows where growth took place in the region. Each dot represents 20 new people who arrived from 2006 to 2011.
More than two-thirds of B.C.'s population gain over the past five years happened within Metro Vancouver, new census numbers show.
And the South-of-Fraser and Tri-Cities areas accounted for some of the fastest growth.
Surrey, Langley and White Rock together added more than 85,000 residents and accounted for almost 44 per cent of the Metro's gain in population. Combined, they now total 616,848.
Metro Vancouver regional development manager Chris DeMarco, whose staff crunched the sub-regional "growth share" numbers, said they underscore the continued faster pace of development in younger cities.
That's in contrast with Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster, which together made up 28 per cent of Metro's gain for 2006-2011 – down from 37 per cent during 2001-2006.
"The City of Vancouver accounts for most of that drop," she said.
Vancouver has less undeveloped land for new housing and DeMarco noted areas such as Downtown South and Coal Harbour are reaching capacity.
There are big areas of single detached homes that could be densified, but that brings political challenges.
Also striking, DeMarco said, was the increase in the northeast sector's growth share.
Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody together accounted for 10.8 per cent of regional growth in the last five years, up from 5.6 per cent in the previous period.
Together, they now have 218,509 residents, a gain of 21,284 since 2006.
The average household size also increased slightly in Metro Vancouver from 2.56 people to 2.6.
That might not sound like much, but DeMarco said it's significant because a long trend of households getting smaller appears to have reversed.
The reason won't be apparent until more details population and housing statistics are released, she said.
It could be a combination of several factors, she said, such as more extended families living together, children staying at home longer and unrelated people sharing homes because of the cost of housing.
Neighbourhood level maps for Metro Vancouver
See also Abbotsford-Mission neighbourhood map of census growth rates.