‘TransLink 2017 By The Numbers’ is a four-part Daily Hive series on the latest annual ridership data on Metro Vancouver’s public transit system. This is the third part of the series.
Just how many fare gates are at each SkyTrain station and SeaBus terminal in Metro Vancouver?
Based on data from TransLink’s 2017 Transit Network Performance Review, there are over 400 fare gates to process the average of 487,000 boardings per weekday on the three SkyTrain lines and SeaBus ferry service.
Most fare gate locations operate bidirectionally at all times, not in set counterflow directions throughout the day as on many major systems elsewhere in the world. This has contributed to bottleneck issues at some locations, particularly during peak hours, with passengers queuing to pass through fare gates.
Expo Line stations top the list of having the most fare gates not only to support their high ridership volumes but also because many of these stations have multiple entrances.
The hub at Waterfront Station, the busiest station on the system, has the most fare gates, with 20 fare gates serving two different fare zone areas – one for the Canada Line and the other for the Expo Line, SeaBus, and West Coast Express. There are also four separate fare gate areas that support Waterfront Station.
This is followed by Commercial-Broadway Station with the second highest number of 20 fare gates across four different entrances.
Meanwhile, the station with the largest cluster of fare gates is Burrard Station, which has 17 fare gates in its single concourse area at the bottom of the escalators.
As for the stations with the busiest and most congested fare gates (the average entries per fare gate per weekday), Canada Line stations dominate the top 10. The numbers show that the fare gates on this line are workhorses.
Yaletown-Roundhouse Station ties with a handful of other stations for having the least number of fare gates. It has just three fare gates – the minimum standard for a SkyTrain station – to support its volume of 10,500 average boardings per weekday. This means each of the station’s fare gates processes about 3,500 entries per weekday, making Yaletown-Roundhouse Station’s fare gates by far the busiest and most congested.
Last year, Yaletown-Roundhouse Station saw staggering year-over-year ridership growth: +9.4% on weekdays, +18.8% on Saturdays, and +16.7% on Sundays. More fare gates are needed for this station, but this is likely a significant challenge due to the station’s tight underground concourse space.
The fare gates at Vancouver City Centre Station are the second biggest choke point, with just six fare gates serving an average of 18,400 boardings per weekday – equivalent to an average 3,067 entries.
Granville Station’s fare gates were the 10th busiest in 2017, but over the two-year-long escalator replacement period its fare gate utility ranking will be elevated to the system’s second busiest. This is because the closure of the station’s Granville Street entrance, which has seven fare gates, has diverted traffic to the Dunsmuir Street entrance.
In anticipation of significantly higher passenger flows from the closure, earlier this year, TransLink added two fare gates to the Dunsmuir Street entrance, increasing the number of fare gates at the entrance to six. With an average of 20,600 boardings per weekday at the station, each of the six remaining fare gates at the Dunsmuir Street entrance are expected to process roughly the same number of entries as Yaletown-Roundhouse Station’s fare gates.
It is worth nothing that the fare gates at the CPR building interior entrance for the Canada Line’s Waterfront Station platforms are often congested as there are only four fare gates serving the direct pathway from the major transit station hub, but the public data set does not provide insight into this.
In 2016, TransLink sought a contractor to analyze passenger flows through 10 stations with “critical” fare gate bottleneck issues. The contractor was also asked to provide passenger modelling and create conceptual architectural design and layout changes to improve flows. These problem stations outlined in TransLink’s RFP at the time were: Vancouver City Centre, Surrey Central, Yaletown-Roundhouse, Waterfront, Richmond-Brighouse, Brentwood Town Centre, King George, 22nd Street Station, Joyce-Collingwood Station, and Scott Road.
Capacity upgrades are already planned or ongoing for some of these stations, particularly Joyce-Collingwood, Surrey Central, and Brentwood Town Centre, which requires more fare gate capacity for next year’s opening of The Amazing Brentwood shopping mall. There are also plans to provide Burrard Station with a second entrance that is supported by six elevators and a new fare gate area.
As for the SeaBus terminal at Lonsdale Quay, the only non-SkyTrain location with fare gates, the ferry terminal has nine fare gates to support the route’s average of 18,740 boardings per weekday.
Here is a full breakdown of the number of fare gates at each SkyTrain station and a ranking of the stations with the busiest and congested fare gates: