Opinion: New second entrance should be built for Broadway-City Hall Station

Oct 4 2019, 5:06 pm

Broadway-City Hall Station at the heart of the Central Broadway Corridor is destined to become one of the region’s busiest SkyTrain stations in 2025, when the Millennium Line Broadway Extension meets the Canada Line to create an interchange between the two SkyTrain lines at the intersection of West Broadway and Cambie Street.

Below ground level, an impressive underground pathway network will seamlessly integrate the existing Canada Line with the Millennium Line extension, with the integration achieved by connections from both Canada Line platforms and another pathway from the existing station’s main concourse level to the Millennium Line concourse and platforms below.

Altogether, there will be three pathways with vertical circulation access (staircases, escalators, and elevators) to reach the Millennium Line platforms from the Canada Line’s fare-paid zone.

This has the makings of an appropriate high-capacity solution for the surreal volume of transfers that can be expected between the Canada Line and the Millennium Line upon the extension’s opening day and far into the future.

Canada Line SkyTrain Broadway-City Hall Station

Broadway-City Hall on SkyTrain’s Canada Line. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

But curiously, there are no plans to construct an additional secondary street entrance into the station, with planners opting to only utilize the existing Canada Line station entrance pavilion at the southeast corner of the intersection.

The provincial government says the decision to rely on the existing narrow entrance is due to their expectation that there will be less foot traffic entering and exiting the station at street level, as all connections between the east-west and north-south rail lines will be underground.

It is certainly true that much of the current foot traffic flowing in and out of the street entrance is from the transfers between the Canada Line and the 99 B-Line bus service, and these circulation movements will be transplanted underground.

However, a critical regional transit hub necessitates multiple entrances for redundancy and resiliency reasons. More broadly, redundancy and resiliency are increasingly vital aspects for Metro Vancouver’s public transit system, with the region becoming ever more reliant and intertwined with getting around by public transit.

99 b-line red bus zone Red-painted

Red-painted bus zone at the intersection of West Broadway and Cambie Street, outside the Canada Line’s Broadway-City Hall Station entrance. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

All over the world, multiple station entrances are common features of major hub stations, and in many instances they are even incorporated into the minor stations that see less ridership for accessibility and convenience reasons, as well as redundancy and resiliency.

The area’s expected future employment and residential densification, as a result of the municipal government’s to-be-enacted Broadway Plan, also demands a street entrance with more capacity than merely the existing five fare gates.

In all likelihood, behind the scenes, there have been intense internal debates over the need and feasibility of an additional entrance for Broadway-City Hall Station, especially when budget considerations of the $2.8-billion subway project come into play.

Perhaps a secondary entrance is envisioned in the future as part of the new Vancouver City Hall campus that will takeover the entire city block where the existing Canada Line entrance is situated. Few details are currently known about the new City Hall, but it is expected to be built in the 2020s.

It is within the realm of possibility there could be longer-term plans to build a secondary street entrance in the future by partnering with a private developer engaged in a redevelopment in the area.

And perhaps there are plans to widen the existing street entrance to accommodate additional fare gates. At the very least, a widening of the existing entrance should be pursued if a secondary street entrance is not planned for opening day.

But from the outset, the current publicly known plans for Broadway-City Hall Station’s street entrance contradict some of the City of Vancouver’s design principles and guidelines for the Broadway Extension, approved by city council in May 2018.

Canada Line Broadway-City Hall Station

Existing entrance for the Canada Line’s Broadway-City Hall Station at the southeast corner of the intersection of West Broadway and Cambie Street. (Google Maps Streetview)

The guidelines state that Broadway-City Hall Station with the addition of the Millennium Line should be “given special consideration due to the significance of the site as a major transportation hub and centre of a civic and medical precinct, including considering opportunities for the City or another party to provide additional station entrances.”

“The Broadway Extension system should be designed to be consistent with the ultimate capacity of the existing Millennium Line. Station elements (platforms, elevators, escalators, emergency exits…) should either be sized for the long term needs on opening day or allow for future expansion of station elements with minimal impacts on transit operations and passengers. Emergency exit capacity must be based on full trains operating at their maximum length and at minimum headways.”

Additional entrances for this particular station are an optimal feature to “reduce pedestrian movements at grade,” and there should be “flexibility for future underground pedestrian connections and integration with nearby developments” including the new City Hall.

Moreover, the guidelines note that “stations and related system structures should be designed to allow for overbuild.”

Other than Broadway-City Hall Station, the guidelines also specifically highlighted the desire for an accessible underground connection between the Fairview-VGH Station (the Oak Street-area station, located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Laurel Street and West Broadway) and Vancouver General Hospital.

The city developed the design guidelines for the Broadway Extension largely based on the lessons it had learnt from the gross under-building of the Canada Line as a direct result of unchecked value engineering. Extensive public consultation was conducted to create the guidelines.

Broadway City Hall Station Millennium Line Broadway Extension

Location of Broadway-City Hall Station, with the Millennium Line Broadway Extension sharing the existing Canada Line entrance. (Government of BC)

A secondary station entrance was envisioned as early as the 2000s, when the city struck a deal with PCI Developments to set aside some built-in empty space in its Crossroads development — located at the northwest corner of the intersection — for a future subway entrance.

Over the years, Whole Foods Market workers at Crossroads have been using the “subway room” — a large cavernous space at the back of the grocery store — as storage space.

The idea during Crossroads’ rezoning was to turn this room into the vertical circulation required between the street level and the underground station complex, with the subway’s street entrance located in the space currently occupied by the City of Vancouver’s CityLab public engagement venue. To serve its intended purpose, the “subway room” would be permanently walled off from the grocery store.

Furthermore, the Canada Line station was designed with Crossroads’ potential future street entrance in mind: A “knockout panel” embedded into the western wall of the mezzanine level, next to the elevator to reach the Canada Line’s southbound platform, was intended to provide a future underground connection to the Millennium Line extension and/or the Crossroads street entrance.

But instead of a new underground connection that leads to an additional street entrance, this blowout wall is now set to become an alcove for a new elevator to reach the underground concourse level of the Millennium Line.

Broadway City Hall Crossroads

2000s conceptual artistic rendering of the subway entrance at the Crossroads building at the northwest corner of Broadway and Cambie Street. (City of Vancouver)

It is not a matter of if but when multiple entrances are absolutely required for the station, as was the case for stations such as Granville Station and Commercial-Broadway Station.

As part of the funded Phase One of the Mayors’ Council’s transit expansion plan, TransLink is pursuing a major street entrance capacity increase for Burrard Station to address growing congestion with the station’s existing entrance of three escalators.

A budget of $75 million has been established for Burrard Station’s upgrade and expansion, with initial plans considering secondary entrance options at the southeast corner of the intersection of Dunsmuir Street and Burrard Street, next to the Park Place office tower. Strict below-grade footprint restrictions for this secondary entrance addition limited the design options to either an elevator-only portal with up to six escalators or a two-escalator-only portal.

TransLink’s analysis preferred the elevator-only bank option, as it would technically provide more capacity over the escalator-duo option, which would quickly reach capacity within the medium term.

But last year, the construction cost estimate for this ‘East Entry’ concept, including the new associated underground pathway, was higher than the available budget, sending planners back to reviewing alternative options that expand the existing station entrance.

burrard station east entrance concept

2016 escalator-only concept for the additional ‘East Entry’ into Burrard Station. (TransLink, retrieved by Freedom of Information)

burrard station east entrance concept

2016 escalator-only concept for the additional ‘East Entry’ into Burrard Station. (TransLink, retrieved by Freedom of Information)

burrard station east entrance concept

2016 escalator-only concept for the additional ‘East Entry’ into Burrard Station. (TransLink, retrieved by Freedom of Information)

burrard station east entrance concept

2016 escalator-only concept for the additional ‘East Entry’ into Burrard Station. (TransLink, retrieved by Freedom of Information)

burrard station east entrance concept

2016 escalator-only concept for the additional ‘East Entry’ into Burrard Station. (TransLink, retrieved by Freedom of Information)