TransLink is considering a design concept of building a secondary entrance into SkyTrain’s Burrard Station in downtown Vancouver, but there is a catch: Access between the street level and the underground concourse level could be exclusively by a system of six elevators.
The entrance could be built on the east side of Burrard Street, directly across the street from the existing entrance at Art Phillips Park – right outside the Park Place office tower where the 95 B-Line bus stop is located.
A preliminary schematic shows the new east stationhouse, deep vertical elevator shafts reaching six storeys in height, and a new horizontal tunnel to connect to the existing station concourse and platforms.
Escalators were also considered, but the public transit authority stated in a previous report that the project will have to work with a very limited space to work with and that the new tunnels would have to be wedged between Park Place’s underground parkade and underground utilities.
TransLink believes the elevator option provides more capacity than the escalator options.
“The most promising options with respect to addressing vertical circulation capacity include access exclusively by elevators,” the report states. “The escalator options do not provide as much capacity since the escalator quantity is governed by existing site constraints – i.e. escalator footprint needs to fit within the depth of existing parking stalls.”
Some precedent of having elevator-only entrances has already been set by other subway systems elsewhere in the world. Seattle opened its Beacon Hill Station on the Central LRT line in 2009, and this station is only accessible by four high-speed elevators down to the platform level – located 160 ft. underground, a 20-second ride from street level.
More recently, Hong Kong’s new MTR West Island Line has elevator-only entrances serving Hong Kong University Station and Sai Ying Pun Station, as the platforms are at depths of 230 ft. and 160 ft., respectively.
With 21,000 daily boardings, Burrard Station is SkyTrain’s second busiest station – after Commercial-Broadway Station – and its lone entrance with three escalators and one elevator is increasingly insufficient to reliably meet ridership levels. Bottlenecks occur whenever one of the escalators is shut down for maintenance.
An expansion of this existing entrance with an additional escalator was deemed early on to be too highly disruptive and costly for the limited benefits.
VIA Architecture was contracted by TransLink in early-2017 to explore conceptual design options, as the additional vertical circulation capacity is needed to support the Expo Line’s growing capacity, which is currently at in excess of 15,000 passengers per hour per direction (pphpd).
By 2041, the system’s capacity will need to grow to 25,700 pphpd to support ridership demand.
Other station upgrades to Burrard Station could potentially include an upgrade of the existing stairs to the ticketing concourse, the conversion of the emergency exit staircase into a public staircase, the addition of a down escalator to the outbound platform level, a new elevator cab, a replacement of the existing ceiling metal panels with perforated metal acoustic ceiling panels, a replacement of the existing white wall metal paneling, an upgrade of lighting and public announcement systems, and new wayfinding signage.
As part of the Mayors’ Council’s 10-year, $7.3 billion Phase Two plan, there is an allocation of $1.3 billion towards upgrades to the existing Expo Line and Millennium Line infrastructure, which includes funding for the construction of upgrades to Burrard Station and Brentwood Town Centre Station.
Design work will also begin on the future upgrades to Columbia Station, Edmonds Station, and Stadium-Chinatown Station.