A major capacity and public space overhaul of SkyTrain Burrard Station is envisioned by TransLink.
The public transit authority has submitted a development application to the City of Vancouver to build a new plaza and replacement street entrance into the station.
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The 1985-built escalator and staircase portal from Burrard Street to the ticketing concourse — located close to the Melville Street side of the city block — would be demolished and replaced with a sloping open plaza with high-quality pavers, seating, and landscaping.
A new vertical circulation to reach the ticketing concourse from Burrard Street would be built to the north, closer to Dunsmuir Street — next to the existing elevator entrance. This new portal would have a staircase, two escalators, and a bank of two new replacement elevators within a new elevator shaft.
The pitched glass canopy of Burrard Station would be extended to the sidewalk for this new replacement portal, which provides an escalator for each up and down direction as opposed to the existing portal’s up-only escalator.
The changes are intended to not only create a more seamless connection for passengers between the Burrard Street sidewalk and the station entrance, but they are part of the much larger broader plans to boost the overall circulation capacity of Burrard Station.
These capacity upgrades for Burrard Station are being pushed forward after TransLink cancelled its plans to build an additional east entrance across the street at the southeast corner of the intersection of Dunsmuir Street and Burrard Street, right outside the Park Place office tower.
The original second entrance concept was challenged by the limited footprint, as it would have to fit within the underground vehicle parking stalls of Park Place. This restricted TransLink’s options to either an elevator-only portal with a bank of up to six elevators or an escalator-only portal with two escalators.
TransLink initially preferred the elevator-only option, as it would provide more capacity over the escalator option, which would quickly reach capacity within the medium term.
But in 2018, the construction cost estimate for the east entrance’s elevator-only concept — including the new underground pathway — was higher than the available budget of approximately $75 million. Subsequently, planning work on the Burrard Station capacity upgrades focused on improving the existing west entrance.
The development application notes that the specific details on other components of the station capacity upgrade reaching the underground levels have yet to be finalized.
Currently, there is a bank of three escalators between the ticketing concourse and the underground mezzanine level where the fare gates are. A new additional bank of three escalators would be built immediately to the south, below the planned sloped plaza — on the footprint of the existing escalator and staircase from Burrard Street. This would increase the number of escalators between the ticketing concourse to the mezzanine level to six, doubling the existing design.
The three additional escalators would presumably require an expansion of the mezzanine level to double the size of the escalator landing area, and provide more underground circulation capacity.
Source materials not publicly available show the estimated construction cost for this upgraded west entrance option is about $50 million.
Other public realm upgrades as part of the station makeover include the removal of the existing grass on the Burrard Street side, replacing it with pavers as part of the plaza, and a new large bus shelter. There will also be some improvements to the “Cherry Tree Walk” on the south side of the block along Melville Street.
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However, TransLink’s project scope does not include any improvements to Art Philips Park west of the ticketing concourse. The green space on the westernmost area of the block is under the jurisdiction of the Vancouver Park Board.
In 2019, Burrard Station was SkyTrain’s fourth busiest station, with 7.6 million annual boardings and an average of over 25,000 weekday boardings. The existing three escalators to reach the subway station are highly constrained in capacity, and at any given time there is just one escalator for one direction. Congestion is particularly an issue when an escalator is closed for maintenance.