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I Love Transit Week: favourite SkyTrain stations

Here’s another reminder to come to I Love Transit Night this Thursday! Send me an RSVP if you can make it: it’s the Buzzer’s first live meetup and will be on Thursday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m.

What’s your favourite SkyTrain station?

I think a favourite SkyTrain station can really depend on the criteria. For sheer prettiness, my favourite SkyTrain station is definitely Brentwood Town Centre.

Brentwood Town Centre Station. Beautiful!

Brentwood Town Centre Station. Beautiful!

But Broadway and Commercial, however, has a hustle and bustle all its own – so many shops are located right near the transit hub, and it connects to the 99 B-Line. Convenient!

Just outside Commercial Station -- the walkway above goes to Broadway Station.

Just outside Commercial Station -- the walkway above goes to Broadway Station.

And Main Street is a sentimental favourite – it was the very first SkyTrain station built for a demonstration project in 1982, along with 1100 metres of track. During this “pre-build” SkyTrain evaluation period, over 300,000 people visited the station and rode a two-car prototype train.

The Main Street demonstration line from 1982. Note the two-car prototype train!

The Main Street demonstration line from 1982. Note the two-car prototype train!

Anybody have their own favourites? (Also, just curious: has anyone actually visited every single station on the line?)

PS: Please do note that I might put your responses in the March Buzzer, as I’ll be putting reader contributions from I Love Transit Week into the next print edition! If you don’t want your comment in the print Buzzer, just say the word :)


  • By David, February 24, 2009 @ 2:59 pm

    The newer glass stations are certainly better looking than the old ones. Functionally I prefer the stations with separate platforms for inbound and outbound. Places like Joyce are a crowded nightmare much of the time on both the shared platform and shared escalators.

    The most unexpected great view is from the western end of the platforms at Nanaimo.

    Although I’ve ridden SkyTrain through every station at some point in my life I’ve only disembarked at 16 of them.

    I was one of those 300,000 who rode the demo line in 1982 and one of the thousands who walked along the unfinished Millennium line guideway in Burnaby back in about 2001.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 24, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

    Did you get a First Riders Club certificate from the demo line?

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 24, 2009 @ 3:29 pm

    Also, double agreed about the view from Nanaimo platform! The station is so unassuming, you’d never guess that view was there.

  • By Josh, February 24, 2009 @ 4:46 pm

    There’s a lot of stations I love on SkyTrain. One of my favourites is definately Brentwood Town Centre, as well as Lougheed Town Centre.

    There’s not many stations that I like aesthetically on the Expo Line. However, history-wise Waterfront Station is up there on my list.

    P.S.: Like David said, I love the view you can get from Nanaimo Station!

  • By Shane, February 24, 2009 @ 7:39 pm

    I have been riding the train since I was 14. I used to live in the burbs and at that age my parents used to let me take the bus all the way to New West station which used to be the end of the line. So, for sentimental value, I like that station. Also, Main street – because that is where my friends and I would get off to spend the day at Expo.

    My favourite stations aesthetically are 1) from the inside: Brentwood, 2) from the outside: the colourful lights on top of Holdom.

  • By Eric, February 24, 2009 @ 10:55 pm

    My favourite is Nanaimo: I’ve lived near there for many years; I like the dual platforms; and, as others have mentioned, the view!

    Since no one’s replied yet to your last question: I have boarded and disembarked at every station over my many years commuting or otherwise wandering around the system.

  • By ;-), February 24, 2009 @ 11:39 pm

    I like the single platforms… There appears to be more elbow room on the platforms and easier for tourists to switch train directions if they were standing at the wrong side. Before they put in the fencing, I heard riders would sometimes attempt to sprint across the tracks (and live power rails) because they got on the wrong side to catch the trains coming in the opposite direction.

    But I always wondered why certain stations like Nanaimo wasn’t a single platform. Which is cheaper to build, single vs double platforms?

    I hear several Canada Line tunnel stations (like Oakridge) will not have single platforms. Instead a maze of stairs will need to be used to walk under the CLine guideways (especially Northbound).

  • By Cree, February 25, 2009 @ 8:52 am

    Chalk up another vote for Nanaimo Sta. Great view all-year round and probably the only station where you’d get a visible view of the fireworks in the summer.

  • By CJ Stebbing, February 25, 2009 @ 10:18 am

    I also like brentwood, because it feels like when you enter the station by train, you’ve entered into a glass wonderland. I especially like the view whenever I get off there.

    I too have visited EVERY single skytrain station (I also attended the oppening ceremony for the MLine, when that lady screwed up what city she was from. That was the highlight of my day :) .). I intend to do the same thing once the CLine opens in 9 months….lol

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 25, 2009 @ 10:35 am

    CJ, what was the error made by the lady at the Millennium Line opening? I don’t think I’ve heard that story.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 25, 2009 @ 10:44 am

    ;-) – I can tell you all the downtown Vancouver stations on the Canada Line are definitely single platform. Off the top of my head, I am pretty sure many of them become doubles outside of downtown. You can definitely see that the above-ground YVR & Richmond stations are double platforms. Tafyrn’s Canada Line photos would probably provide some more insight on this question.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 25, 2009 @ 12:00 pm

    You know… now that I’m looking at Tafyrn’s photos in more detail, I can’t really tell if the above ground platforms are doubles or not. No matter: I’ll ask the experts and get to the bottom of this!

  • By CJ Stebbing, February 25, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

    She said “good morning Toronto” or “…Ottawa” and continued on until someone said she said the wrong city. She then went on to correct her error, while laughing, and said “opps! good morning VANCOUVER.”

    Like I said, it made my day, and it was even funnier when i saw it on the news. The reporter said “There was one glitch in the ceremony, when (her name again can’t remember) forgot what city she was in until someone from the audience corrected her.

  • By Ron, February 25, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

    Agreed that Nanaimo Station is a nice station. It’s built into a hillside so it doesn’t “dominate” as much as some of the Millennium Line stations do – and of course, the view – from the platform and the train!

    As for Brentwood Station – it suffers from its design as a median station (placed in the median of the roadway). That meant that the station needed a mezzanine under the platforms to cross across Lougheed Highway (otherwise the escalators would disgorge passengers into a narrow roadway median (unsafe)). That also meant that the guideway and the station had to be built twice as tall as stations built along the side of the road (such as Holdom Station or the No. 3 Rd. stations on the Canada Line). So although Brentwood Station may look good in photos, I’m not keen on its relationship with its surroundings. I wouldn’t favour guideways in a roadway median for that reason – it complicates station design.

    The Millennium Line stations also seem to suffer from geography. The hills along the route meant that the straight level 80m sections of track required for the stations tended to be quite high in elevation in a few cases and created stations that tower over their neighbours. Production Way Station and Sperling Station come to mind.

  • By Ron, February 25, 2009 @ 1:45 pm

    WRT outside platforms versus centre platforms – apparently, it is more expensive to have the guideway “swerve” out of the way for a centre platform, than it is to have the guideway remain straight and to built separate outside platforms (i.e. despite the cost of the additional escalator and elevator). The Canada Line downtown stations are centre platforms because the guideway is in two twin bored tunnels – and the platform sits between the two bores. If the downtown tunnel had been one large diamter bore containing both guideway, the stations probably would have had outside platforms. If I recall correctly, almost all of the other Canada Line Stations are outside platforms (Sea Island in a centre platform and King Edward is stacked).

    The Oakridge-41st and the Langara 49th Stations have outside platforms and will be inconvenient for passengers because they utilize an “underpass” to get to the “farside” platform. Instead of building mezzanines allowing passengers to access the outside platforms from above the tracks (and which would have required a deeper excavation for the guideway and station in general (i.e. more expensive)), the underpass means that passengers will have to go down and back up to access the farside platform (rather than just aross and down). The Broadway-City Hall station has a mezzanine design.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 25, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

    Thanks for the info, Ron! Now I’m curious: what’s your favourite SkyTrain station? With your knowledge of the system, you must prefer some to others :)

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 25, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

    I asked Alan Dever from Canada Line about the station platforms, and here’s what he told me:

    Well I’ve checked and of the sixteen stations 6 of the 16 stations have centre (single) platforms which mean there are ten with side (double) platforms. From what I’ve been told, cost effectiveness depends, in the underground stations, on the depth of the station rather than the design of the platform. Canada Line station’s underground stations are relatively close to the surface which would affect cost effectiveness more than the platform design. With the elevated guideway, generally side platforms are more cost effective. Please note I said generally. Of Canada Line’s 8 elevated stations, 6 have side platforms.

  • By Josh, February 25, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

    Also, to add on to my earlier comment, I’ve also visited every station to take photos of them.

  • By Scott, February 25, 2009 @ 9:32 pm

    I like Burrard Station for the layout of the whole thing and for the guy who usually plays his music there. His music is relaxing.

  • By Eugene Wong, February 26, 2009 @ 9:44 am

    This is a great discussion.

    Thank you, all, for sharing your thoughts on Nanaimo Station. I wouldn’t have guessed. Next time, I intend to stop for a while and enjoy the view.

    I have definitely stopped at every Expo Line station. I have passed through all Millennium Line stations, but have stopped only at the majority of them.

    My favourite stations would have to be Commercial Dr Station & Broadway Station, because I don’t have to press buttons to cross streets just to get to the shops below. I feel like I’m special, instead of the car drivers. Nobody’s going to hit me. There are a variety of shops around. I don’t need to walk very far. I don’t need to transfer to buses. We could watch the trains go by. I like it a lot.

    An honourable mention goes to New Westminster Station & Columbia Station, because they are in downtown New Westminster, which is also getting quite pedestrian friendly.

    An honourable mention goes to 22nd St Station & Edmonds Station, because of the view that we get, in between the stations.

    An honourable mention goes to Patterson Station for being so close to Central Park. In fact, the fitness trail is right there.

    When I chose my favourite station, I never thought about the beauty. I agree with what you all say about Brentwood Station, Lougheed Station and the other Millennium Line Stations. They look great. At first, I wasn’t too enthused about them making the stations look so nice. I thought that less beauty would be cheaper. Now, I can see that it was worth it.

    I’m really looking forward to the transit village projects, so that we’ll have places to go to, without transferring to a bus. I like riding buses. It’s the transferring that bugs me.

    I rode the demonstration project. Do you all remember that there was some kind of vandalism there? I seem to recall somebody setting the station on fire. I still remember my first reaction, when the train started moving. I think that it was my first experience with riding a real train. If I recall the specifics correctly, I said, with a hushed breath, *gasp!* “We’re moving!”. I still get that feeling when I ride Via Rail trains.

    Jhenifer, I have to admit, that I didn’t expect much to happen with this blog, because I always assumed that most Translink workers don’t enjoy transit. I figured that they’ll only use it until they can save up for a car. You seem to relish in this kind of stuff. I almost get the impression that you put your work on hold so that you could read this blog and research for our discussions. :^D :^D Thanks for your hard work. :^)

  • By Ron, February 26, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

    I think that my favorite stations would depend more on location and surroundings than just the design of the station. In terms of all of those factors, I like Commercial Station in the Grandview Cut for that reason – it’s a busy hub but separated from the street and its a nice modern design with the wood beams. Even though it’s a standard design, Nanaimo Station is nice.
    In terms of just the superstructure of the stations (ignoring the guideways, etc.) most of the Millennium Line stations are great, with Brentwood and Lougheed at the top of the list.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, February 26, 2009 @ 4:40 pm

    Ron: thanks for that!

    Eugene: thanks for sharing your stories, and your kind words about the blog! You’re right, I certainly love transit (and I know lots of my coworkers do too :). Glad you’re enjoying what I’m putting together here!

  • By David, February 26, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

    In response to your question, Jhenifer, I do not recall getting a “First Riders’ Club” certificate. I think I rode near the end of the demo period.

    I understand the efficiency of a centre platform, but most of the Expo line centre platforms are really quite narrow on either side of the escalator/stair/seating in the middle. Joyce is particularly bad because so many buses use that station. The escalator is usually packed going up and then you literally have to push your way through the crowd to get to the platform. Broadway has a much wider platform, probably because it was built to handle larger crowds. Even so it gets packed in peak periods.

    I think VCC-Clark should have been built into the hillside like Nanaimo was. That way there could have been an eastern entrance/exit to connect with the #22. The existing entrance wouldn’t have needed to move, just the location of the platforms above it. The connection to Clark Drive is so bad and involves climbing such a steep hill that they should take Clark out of the name of the station.

    I guess I never said which stations I like, other than mentioning Nanaimo. I like Burrard for it’s plaza and park and the Commercial location in the cut.

    It’s a shame so much garbage gets tossed over the fences into the cut. I still can’t understand why Commerical was built with a centre platform when there’s a central plaza above to feed both sides. The station superstructure is far more complicated than it would need to be with side platforms. My only thought is a desire to keep people away from the CN/GN line below.

    I wrote to Canada Line when they first started showing the Oakridge and Langara saying that seniors were going to have trouble with all the stairs and elevators needed to get to the “far” platforms. It takes 3 separate elevators for a disabled person to get to a train. Obviously nobody thought it important enough to change the design. I also commented on having no Robson St. entrance to the central downtown station. They responded by putting service rooms there to block any potential future entrance. Our transportation planners don’t care about their users.

  • By Steve, February 26, 2009 @ 9:25 pm

    The stations with a good view of the mountains or water are my favorites, always a good way to start the day, very calming.

    Stations could be tarted up quite a bit though, many look like slabs of concrete without any character. Like to see more green around the stations, plants etc. Maybe maps about the area and some historical information.

    Brentwood station is ok but snow and ice isn’t cleared for passenger safety in the mornings. There are some loose concrete slabs that are dangerous but haven’t been fixed for 2-3 weeks now, a warning notice wasn’t placed up until at least a week after slabs became loose.

    Skytrain is one of the most pleasant systems to travel on but certainly like to see some of them reflect the spirit of the communities they are in.

  • By Ron, February 27, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

    For VCC-Clark, the access to Clark Drive is supposed to be built in the future when the parcel on the corner is developed – but that has not yet occurred. See discussion here:

    Commercial Drive Station could be a centre platform to reduce the width of the station in the Grandview Cut. The station was built to provide enough clearance in the Cut so that BNSF could double track the railway in the future when required.

  • By Gennifer, March 2, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

    Like several other people in this discussion, I’ve been to every Expo line station and ridden through every Millenium line station with the exception of VCC Clark. I’ve only been to about 7 or 8 of the Millenium line stations.

  • By Masaki, March 3, 2009 @ 1:55 am

    My favourite station exterior-wise is Brentwood Town Centre Station, it’s just such a unique design. I also like Sapperton Station because of the artwork wheel between the two tracks. Overall, Millennium Line stations seem much more clean and modern because of their all glass exteriors.

    I also prefer above-grade stations over below-grade stations. On a different note my least favourite station aesthetically would probably be Granville Station, because it’s one of the few that doesn’t have its own above-ground structure, that and the escalator ride takes too long. But on the plus side there’s a liquor store right there and Pacific Centre.

    Burrard Station is probably my favourite Expo Line station because of the glass roofing and greenery.

  • By Jake, April 2, 2009 @ 8:31 am

    I remember the proto-type train in 1982! My god that was a long time ago… it was so cool to see SkyTrain when it was brand new…..
    Either it’s old or i’m old~ hahah

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