Update: April Fools!
A shuttle SkyTrain line between Brentwood Station and Metrotown Station has jumped the queue in the region’s rapid transit priorities. The $510-million extension is nicknamed the “relief line” as it will connect both the SkyTrain Expo and Millennium Line’s at their mid-points to provide commuters with a new, quicker way to travel using SkyTrain. Construction on the SkyTrain Willingdon Line is set to begin in early-2017 for a early-2021 opening.
The 4.9-kilometre, 6-station line along Willingdon Avenue is expected to revolutionize how we use the existing Expo and Millennium Lines. Currently, the system is highly unattractive to use for those traveling from the Expo and Millennium Line mid-points in Burnaby. To get from Metrotown to Brentwood, passengers must either take a slow, full bus or take the train east all the way around Columbia or the train west to Commercial-Broadway for a transfer to the Millennium Line.
With the bus, it currently takes anywhere between 15 to 20-minutes to get from Metrotown to Brentwood during most times of the day. For travel times on SkyTrain: East through Columbia via the Millennium Line, it takes approximately 28-minutes; West through a transfer at Commercial-Broadway, about 20-minutes excluding the time to make a transfer.
In high contrast, the Willingdon Line will take just 9-minutes to get from Metrotown to Brentwood. It will connect Burnaby’s two largest and rapidly growing urban and employment centres while also making the SkyTrain system as a whole more feasible and attractive to use.
The relief line will begin at Metrotown Station where a third side platform will be built to the existing station complex. The line will travel west along Central Boulevard and make a quick turn to the north along Willingdon Avenue. A 1.1-kilometre tunnel from Kingsborough Street to Grassmere Street is required given the steep hill that is impassable north of Grange Street. The tunnel portals will be located north of Kingsborough on the tunnel’s south end and Grassmere Street on the tunnel’s north end, where it will be elevated for its remaining route to Brentwood.
An underground station is slated for the block located between Kingsway and Grange Street on Willingdon Avenue. The remaining stations on the new line will be elevated: Deer Lake Parkway, Goard Way, and Canada Way. The station at Goard Way will directly serve the BCIT campus and the institution has agreed to commit $20-million to fund the station’s construction. The City of Burnaby has also offered $3-million to the project to ensure that an allowance is built-in for a potential future station at Still Creek Drive.
At Brentwood, a second station superstructure will be built parallel to the south of the existing Millennium Line Brentwood Station structure. The Willlingdon Line and Millennium Line station structures at Brentwood will be connected by pedestrian overpass at their concourse levels.
The Willingdon Line will be fully-integrated into the existing SkyTrain network on both ends. Some service disruptions will be required to allow for the connection to be made to the tracks at Brentwood and Metrotown. LRT, streetcar, and bus upgrades were also considered, but they were deemed to costly operationally and would not be able to achieve the same speeds and capacities SkyTrain would be able to.
More importantly, with SkyTrain there are immense benefits with economies of scale playing a factor through the usage of the existing train fleet and maintenance yard infrastructure.
The 1.1-kilometre tunnel on the southern end of the line will be built with the SkyTrain Evergreen Line’s tunnel boring machine. Construction will begin on the Willingdon tunnel immediately after the Evergreen Line’s tunnel construction operations are complete.
For the foreseeable future, the SkyTrain Willingdon Line will operate as a shuttle train between Metrotown Station and Brentwood Station. Two-car trains will run every 3-minutes from end to end. All stations will be built with 80-metre long platforms.
The extension is expected to attract 55,000 riders per day (including 20,000 new transit riders) during its first year of operations in 2021 and 110,000 by 2041. It is intended to be a catalyst for the acceleration of urban growth of both Brentwood and Metrotown into “super” regional town centres and it also bodes well for BCIT’s accessibility to the region’s prospective students. Major development projects have already been approved for Metrotown’s Station Square site and Brentwood Town Centre.
Written and researched by Kenneth Chan, the Deputy Editor at Vancity Buzz. Follow Kenneth on Twitter at @kjmagine.