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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!