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Why is there a third platform at Stadium-Chinatown Station?

The third platform at Stadium-Chinatown Station, in use during the 1980s! The third track is the one on the far left of the photo.

A while back I was asked about the third platform at Stadium-Chinatown Station.

A new SkyTrain sitting at the third track at Stadium-Chinatown Station.

What’s the third platform at Stadium-Chinatown? Well, if you go to the regular platform to board a SkyTrain, you’ll clearly see there’s ANOTHER platform across the SkyTrain tracks and behind a red fence, sitting empty. Have a look at the photo on the right to see what I mean.

So why is it there? I asked Ian Graham, operations manager at SkyTrain, and he explained that originally, the third platform provided shuttle service between the main site of Expo 86 and Canada Place, which was the Canada pavilion at Expo.

The SkyTrain link enabled Canada Place to remain part of the Expo grounds, even though Canada Place wasn’t actually at the Expo site. When you reached Waterfront Station during Expo, its platform was actually divided in half with fencing, separating the regular passengers going to Cordova Street from the fairgoers heading to Canada Place. And with the third track, regular service could continue on the main tracks while this special shuttle service operated during Expo.

Another view of the Stadium-Chinatown third track from the early days.

When the third track was designed, it was thought that the extra platform could be used as an extra boarding point in regular service. However, in practice, it turns out that a third track complicates things more than it streamlines things.

Ian explained that a four-car train can be put out every two minutes, and if we divide these trains up between two platforms at Stadium, we don’t get significantly more people on board. If people just board at the main platform, it actually takes less time to keep sending more trains to the main platform than arranging for trains to go to the third track, and ushering people over to board there.

Also, if we use the third track, more staff is needed to manage the flow of people on two different platforms. The third track is also not accessible (it only has a staircase), and the entrance at the east lower side is actually outside the station compound on the street below.

The way it is now, it’s not really that useful for regular service. So it’s typically reserved for training purposes, train storage, and special events like the new SkyTrain media launch. But it has been used once or twice on special occasions, like rail replacement work where complicated train reroutes are needed.

If you’re curious for more, here’s two links: a thread on Skyscraper City, and the Wikipedia page for Stadium-Chinatown Station.

Also, thanks to Jennifer Siddon from SkyTrain for help in getting the historical photos!


55 Comments

  • By Robert, July 5, 2010 @ 10:50 am

    In the longer term, it would be appropriate to run the numbers again when platforms are lengthened for 6-car MK-2 trains. The stairways won’t be any wider, so the third platform may be of use after large special events. We did recall a slight delay in the outbound train approaching this station after the U2 concert last October, and there will also be more events with the Whitecaps playing at BC Place starting sometime in 2011. Thanks for the post and interesting photos, Jhenifer.

  • By ben K, July 5, 2010 @ 10:56 am

    Sweet; this type of thing (disused plant, historical service, etc.) I always find fascinating. Thanks for the details!

    The wikipedia article also explains the seemingly unusual placement of the Lost Property Office: it occupies what was originally a tunnel beneath Beatty St. that was never put into service; apparently there was a west stairwell that’s now filled with sand and covered over with a sidewalk above! Fascinating.

    If it is ever known in advance that there will be an opportunity to board a train from the third platform, give us a heads-up, would ya? :)

    b

  • By Eugene T.S. Wong, July 5, 2010 @ 11:46 am

    Hmm. I’m glad that we can do well with what we have, but it kind of makes me sad to think that we can’t make use of it for daily service.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, July 5, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

    Ben K: I’ll be sure to let you know if the third track is ever in use :) And I saw that item about the tunnel too — more fodder for future posts!

  • By ;-), July 5, 2010 @ 12:07 pm

    The tunnel was in service for a few years (I remember using it). However without escalators it was not popular. At night it was kinda creepy with the low traffic volume. I guess a few of the less fortunate may have tried to make it a home there on wet days too.

    GM place wasn’t built then. Also I don’t think the public library had moved then (do people remember Planet Hollywood), so mainly VCC students would use it then.

  • By Stefan, July 5, 2010 @ 12:10 pm

    Ben K:

    That tunnel under Beatty Street was used, until the old Larwill Bus Depot (where the big parking lot is, kitty-korner from the station) was torn down in the early to mid 90s.

    It didn’t really help greatly, though, as the west tunnel entrance was at street level on the west side of Beatty, but still north of Dunsmuir, so one still had to cross Dunsmuir at the crosswalk to get to and from the bus depot.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, July 5, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

    Are there any photos of the old tunnel while it was still in use?

  • By Stefan, July 5, 2010 @ 5:12 pm

    Jhenifer:

    A quick Google search didn’t turn up any pictures. I think I walked through it only once…from my dim recollection, it was a narrow, dank passageway surrounded by bare concrete. …And certainly not wheelchair accessible, as there was only a staircase at the western end.

  • By Stefan, July 5, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

    It seems to me that nothing was really lost by covering the tunnel up. But it did have the feeling of a real, traditional, big-city subway entrance (a hole in the ground with a staircase), like the Howe Street entrance at Waterfront Station.

  • By Anonymous, July 5, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

    When did the front entrance get covered? If you look at the photos… Stadium station is open stared… (coming in from Expo bulavard)? It’s not know….

  • By Elfren Ordanza, July 5, 2010 @ 6:20 pm

    One time I was going to Burnaby from Granville and when I just hopped onto the shuttle train (Stadium – Chinatown to Waterfront stations), the SkyTrain announcement said, “Train to: Stadium – Chinatown”. Why can’t SkyTrain use the third platform for that shuttle train when it heads to Stadium – Chinatown as a terminal station? It would be convenient for the other trains to enter the station, rather than waiting for the shuttle train to leave and then enter. This way, it could have been very useful for the third platform.

    Yes, there will be some problems in transfer, especially the people in wheelchairs; I wish that there will be an elevator so that it is accessible for people with wheelchairs.

    This is my critism:

    The third platform is not to be used as if you’re reserving the platform for training purposes, train storage, and special events. Yes I know but I really think that the they should not use the third platform for these events. The platform should be used for transit purposes not for anykind of event purposes. I apologize for the down side but I really don’t like the the way the platform is used for training purposes, train storage, and special events. It should be used for transit purposes.

  • By Tsushima Masaki, July 5, 2010 @ 10:19 pm

    @Jhen

    This is very off-topic but I noticed, probably last month, that the southbound bus stop at Highway 99 @ Steveston Hwy has a large display that tracks and displays all south of Fraser buses (except the 404 and 620) in real time.

    Can you tell me anything about this and if there are other real-time displays operating?

  • By ;-), July 5, 2010 @ 11:09 pm

    Have a look at this streetview picture…..

    http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=49.279911,-123.110516&spn=0,0.002854&z=19&layer=c&cbll=49.279972,-123.110421&panoid=x2lEsg7f5q6_CbkqT1s-iA&cbp=12,307.62,,1,4.58

    The tunnel entrance is the two vertical concrete walls North West of the intersection. There was two sets of stairs… One from the west and to the east. Once you go down the stairs, you go north about 10 feet and a tunnel is found under Beatty. Part of the creepyness is how narrow the stairs are, if you and an umbrella open, it would be hard to pass someone coming the other direction.

    I’m guessing only the tunnel stairs are covered. Prior to the “cover up”, I think much of the tunnel was used for storage. I think we should send Jhen behind the lost property office and get us some updated pictures, otherwise make it part of a tour for us to explore the Skytrain service tunnels, like found at the end of this video.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y07Ywx9Zdos

    Is the tunnel entrance owned by Translink? I wonder if Jhen can get someone to lift up one of those panels for some pictures? ;-)

  • By Dave 2, July 6, 2010 @ 9:07 am

    Anon, those “front entrance” stairs down to [what is now named] Expo Boulevard were not open to the public. They were emergency exit stairs.

    Totally agree with Elfren re: using the 3rd platform when operating the Dunsmuir Tunnel as a shuttle. Several years ago, when the yellow platform edge was being installed, westbound trains only to Stadium, and it was absolute pandemonium as people could not quickly get off the train due the huge crowd waiting to get on, and then the doors would close before people could get on, making the crowd grow even larger. Families were separated, police were screaming, total mess.

    What they *could* have done is have westbound trains cross over and pull into the 3rd platform, allow able bodied people to get off the train, then pull forward and back into the main platform, allow the few remaining passengers to get off, and *then* let eastbound passengers on.

    Ironically, the 3rd platform was also retrofitted with the new yellow tactile platform edge.

  • By Keith (CMBC), July 6, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

    From talking to the installers, (Cobra Electric) this is a prototype or trial for a real-time display of current bus positions and times. The system is currently only capable of tracking the Orion coaches.

  • By Keith (CMBC), July 6, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

    This is an addendum to my last post. I was referring to the display at Southbound Hwy 99 at Steveston Hwy. Also, as far as I know this is the only display currently in use, as it is a trial.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, July 6, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

    Tsushima, Keith:
    The display on Steveston Highway are in fact part of a provincial display project. It shows our bus times but we don’t install/manage the display signage! I’ve asked for a bit more info on this: if I get some follow-up links etc I will post them here.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, July 6, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

    ;-): Well, I can ask about it, but somehow, I doubt you or I be getting into the sealed tunnel anytime soon :)

  • By John, July 6, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

    I agree with anonymous.. when was the entrance from Expo blvd roofed? It seems open staired in the old photos…

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, July 6, 2010 @ 5:23 pm

    Anonymous, John:
    Hmmm… the Wikipedia page says it was roofed in 1988. I will pass this on to see if there are any more details!

  • By David M, July 6, 2010 @ 5:36 pm

    I remember the Beatty Street tunnel and I remember using it just after SkyTrain opened – just once I think. It closed pretty quickly and I never understood if it closed for safety, or simply to provide room for a lost property office in the station.

    The Pacific Blvd stairs where just emergency stairs at the beginning. They were opened as a regular entrance to the station in the late 1980s.

    As for the 3rd platform, I see no operational reason to use it given that all trains will be starting from Waterfront anyway.

    During the Expo Days, the Howe Street Skytrain entrance at Waterfront was inside the Expo site as was the side walk up to Canada Place. Once in the station, the platform was divided, so when you enter from Howe Street, only one platform was available and this was the Expo Shuttle Line. The other side of the platform accessed from Waterfront Station was in regular service. Because of this, it was necessary for the in-service trains to cross over to the outbound platform before entering waterfront, which is why there is a scissor cross-over before Waterfront Station.

    Once on the train (and there was a lineup for the shuttle), the train would depart and operate non-stop to Stadium Station. The shuttle trains were running between regular service trains, which had to stop at Burrard and Granville, so the shuttle would get held in the tunnel at times, waiting for the train ahead to move. During the trip, an announcement was made about the trains being automated, and explained how they were operating between regular service trains. Really cool experience actually.

    The Shuttle pulled into the 3rd platform at Stadium and during expo, the Monorail stopped opposite, allowing an almost cross platform interchange. Not to mention the corkscrew roller coaster was there too.

    Going the other way, the Shuttle would pull out of the third platform eastbound to the first cross-over a few hundred metres east of Stadium. The train would the cross over to the westbound track and then run non-stop through to Waterfront Station – again, between regular service trains.

  • By JMS, July 6, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

    Have a look at Lougheed town Center skytrain station.

    There’s an unused platform on the right side of the Westbound side. There’s also a bunch of unused track around the station. It’s really noticeable when heading westbound into the station.
    I wonder what was the initial design of the whole station. Will the unused track and platform be used for the Evergreen line?

  • By Elfren Ordanza, July 6, 2010 @ 10:44 pm

    @JMS

    The third platform at Lougheed Town Centre could be used for the Evergreen Line.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, July 7, 2010 @ 9:24 am

    JMS: Yes, as Elfren points out, it is a possible connection to the future Evergreen Line.

  • By Elfren Ordanza, July 7, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

    I think you should tell the SkyTrain operators especially the one who is operating a shuttle train to use the third platform for the train. It would be a lot better if they use that platform for transit purposes. :)

  • By ???, July 7, 2010 @ 12:47 pm

    The shuttle train only operated during the 6 month Expo ’86 fair, there is no more shuttle. When it was operating, it was on the third platform and fully computer controlled.

  • By keith, July 7, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

    i believe also stadium was the musem of the transit system

  • By Anonymous, July 7, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

    > The shuttle train only operated during the 6 month Expo ‘86 fair, there is no more shuttle.

    They use a shuttle when doing work in the tunnel, like last year’s water leak repairs and the during installation of the yellow platform strips

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, July 7, 2010 @ 3:18 pm

    Elfren, Anonymous @ 1:43 pm: As mentioned, the third platform is not accessible and has a lot of stairs: it would be very challenging for those in wheelchairs or those with mobility issues to use. So I don’t think it will be used for future shuttle service!

  • By Elfren Ordanza, July 7, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

    Jhennifer,
    Why can’t they just build an elevator for the third platform then?
    Then it would be more accessible for people in wheelchairs.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, July 7, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

    Elfren: As mentioned in the post, the third platform does not provide any advantages in delivering train service and so is not regularly used. So, building a custom elevator for an infrequently used platform that does not enhance our service would not really be a wise use of our resources!

  • By Cliff, July 7, 2010 @ 8:36 pm

    I’ve always thought that the third platform would make an excellent terminus for the heritage trolley when not running to Stanley Park.

    It would be kind of interesting to see Stadium as sort of an inter-modal hub besides just SkyTrain and buses.

  • By Jack, July 8, 2010 @ 12:15 am

    If anyone wants to see an odd website containing photos of SkyTrain during Expo 86, take a look at this website:

    http://www.crbasic.info/high-tech-trains-automated-railways-metro-lines-light-railways.html

    It has photos of the carpeted, door buttoned trains.. the old interior of the computer room.. and really odd vitage stuff of the first year. Too cool.

    Jack

  • By ;-), July 8, 2010 @ 1:00 am

    @Cliff:

    If you look at http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_tTCyS07dYVs/S8SUupoxxKI/AAAAAAAADoc/ZNCaDI_AEvs/s400/Vancouver+Streetcar+Map.jpg

    You will see that the proposed heritage streetcar does not go near Stadium Skytrain station. The line splits at National, one going West to Yaletown and another going North to Chinatown and later to Stanley Park. Also the 3rd platform is at a different elevation.

  • By ;-), July 8, 2010 @ 1:02 am

    @Jack: Excellent find. I was very interested in seeing the Richmond and Coquitlam extensions… http://www.crbasic.info/images/htt_77.jpg

  • By Rex, July 10, 2010 @ 12:00 am

    Jhenifer:

    Does SkyTrain have any photos of the two-car mark I trains? Any more photos of SkyTrain during expo? These are so rare.

  • By JMS, July 11, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

    @Rex Check out http://www.barp.ca. there are a few photos of the mark 1s in their early stages, and 2 car forms.

  • By JMS, July 11, 2010 @ 4:32 pm

    One other thing. What was the Millennium line tunnel (from the switch used near Columbia) used for BEFORE the Millennium line was built. (It was there in the late 90′s, when I was young.)

  • By Cliff, July 11, 2010 @ 8:23 pm

    There was actually no tunnel there prior to the Millennium line. Just a short spur and a dead end afterwards. (I’m almost certain the spur was fairly new too). Venting was constructed to help allow air to escape when a train entered a tunnel. Air pressure within the tunnel rises when a train enters it and many people can feel it in their ears, much as if you were on an airplane.

    Shortly after the tunnel was completed, but before track was laid out, the public was invited to walk through the the tunnel for a day or two as part of an open house.

    The roads in the area were affected more than most people think due to the construction as well! Columbia Street used to have a 50kph limit the whole way but was changed to 30kph from where the SkyTrain tracks cross over Columbia to Front Street, by the quay. During construction, Columbia was realigned and the 30kph limit extended to McBride. Had the road not been realigned, the portal would have been right next to the roadway. Also, solid white lines were painted prohibiting changing lanes and signage was put up banning passing. Also, the left turn from Columbia to the Pattullo Bridge was removed. I’m not certain, but I think a previously allowed left turn onto McBride was removed and made permanent when the new signals were installed.

  • By JMS, July 12, 2010 @ 9:53 am

    Thanks cliff. I now think why they postponed/canceled the proposed woodland skytrain station just outside of the portal.
    1. It is dangerous for the passengers for passengers to cross Columbia street to get to the station
    2. The land is too small to fit a bus loop and fare machines.
    3. it might have had low ridership.

  • By Cliff, July 12, 2010 @ 5:08 pm

    Sapperton had similar issues, but what I think it boiled down to was ridership. With the pending development taking place at the brewery there was justification for Sapperton to be built.

    I’m not sure what the status of the Woodland lands are now, but if they’re to be heavily developed, then the station may still see the light of day sometime in the future.

    By the way, the tunnel was constructed via cut and cover. It was quite the scene and there are dozens of pictures out there if you’re interested.

  • By Cliff, July 12, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

    An interesting idea I had for Stadium Station is why not simply cover the trackage at the third platform and and extend the third platform to the main track?

    That way, during events trains could be filled more quickly and the load spread out between the two platforms. A walkway could be built directly to GM Place just under the viaduct. That way, the jaywalking problem under the tracks is neatly solved too.

    So, any sign of a surplus anytime soon? Haha.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, July 12, 2010 @ 5:32 pm

    Cliff: Your last line made me laugh. Oh, money…

  • By JMS, July 12, 2010 @ 11:34 pm

    Woodland wasnt the only postponed skytrain station. There was one planned inbetween Joyce and Patterson (Boundary station) I believed it had ridership and area issues.

  • By ???, July 13, 2010 @ 6:16 am

    From rumors I heard on a Boundary location. Translink and the land owners could not come up with an agreeable amount for a station.

    As a result a station was built 800 meters to the West and a second station was built 900 meters to the East. With regards to density, Joyce and Patterson didn’t have those residential towers in 1980′s. Those towers came in 10 years later.

    Boundary did have the stronger ridership because BC tel was the biggest employer in the region and could have benefited with the Boundary Station.

    I’m not a real estate expert, but I assume opening a business location at or near a Skytrain station is much higher than perhaps an industrial park.

  • By Anonymous, July 13, 2010 @ 10:44 am

    You know..

    The closest “third track storage” to Stadium station if you didn’t look at the third platform.. is around Nanaimo, and the second is the Waterfront terminus. I think the platform should stay as is for storage – spare track is needed in order to accommodate service needs when SkyTrain picks up passenger frequency during a day, or drops it. It’s a hell of a lot easier than forwarding the trains to Edmonds every time.. which is exclusively for repairs, cleaning, and testing.

    People forget, SkyTrain is a service, and is not maintained by the fairies. It can’t run 24 hours without running a danger to the public for lack of guideway and train servicing. Plus, storage track is necessary simply because we don’t have the passenger capacity like Toronto or New York – there are periods when trains are virtually empty.

    My only major complaint about SkyTrain is that the attendants are not dressed in as visually distinguishing a uniform as they used to be in the 80s.. Now they slip into starbucks and you’de swear to god never actually worked.

  • By Anonymous, July 13, 2010 @ 10:49 am

    PS:

    Odd question… why were carpets put into the trains in the first place? So gross! 50% chewing gum, 50% a biologists dream for studying disease.

    Seriously, in a city where it rains morning noon and night, why would carpets be installed – Expo especially made SkyTrain a zoo.

  • By Jay, July 13, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

    Thanks JMS for the links to the 2car MkI train set. I can’t imagine seeing one of those pull into a station today! :P

  • By JMS, July 18, 2010 @ 8:06 am

    Can’t wait for the next skytrain thread.

  • By Jimmy, July 18, 2010 @ 6:22 pm

    On the top photo, where is open stared whey is there white gates on the top of the stairs?

  • By ;-), July 18, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

    Back in the 80′s…. Expo Boulevard was just a fire exit…. the gates were to discourage people trying leave the platform going East. With low-ridership demands for Expo boulevard, it was easier to handle security with one main entrance (Beatty) instead of two.

    Costco, Tinseltown, and GM Place opened many years later to create a demand for the Expo Boulevard entrance.

    BTW… Keefer Steps entrance didn’t exist back then.

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