Conceptual design for the new Metrotown SkyTrain station in Burnaby.

SkyTrain riders face delays as TransLink expands stations

$164 million in Expo Line upgrades planned to increase rapid transit capacity over next three years

SkyTrain passengers are in for three years of construction delays as TransLink expands seven Expo Line stations to reduce platform congestion and prepare for an influx of new riders connecting via the Evergreen Line from Coquitlam.

The biggest disruption from the $164-million project starts early next spring at Main Street-Science World, where most trains won’t stop for up to six months in 2014.

Instead, passengers heading to or from Main Street will have to take a two-car shuttle train, running every 10 minutes, that will take them as far as Waterfront or Commercial-Broadway stations, where they can transfer to regular trains.

The other six stations slated for major upgrades are Commercial-Broadway, Joyce-Collingwood,  Metrotown, New Westminster, Scott Road and Surrey Central.

Jeff Busby, senior manager of infrastructure at TransLink, said those six stations are to remain open during construction, but passengers may be redirected through different entrances.

The Expo Line is nearly 30 years old and the upgrades are part of TransLink’s strategy to prepare it for another three decades of service.

The original SkyTrain line now carries 14,000 people per hour in each direction, with that volume limited to the capacity at the system’s tightest bottleneck.

Earlier improvements in 2009, including the addition of 48 new SkyTrain cars for the 2010 Olympics, boosted carrying capacity by 30 per cent.

But larger, longer station platforms are now needed to actually deliver that extra volume.

“We are planning for the line to carry 25,000 people per hour per direction,” Busby said. “If that were a freeway, that would be 24-lane freeway carrying 12 lanes of traffic in each direction. That’s the people-moving capacity we think is required to meet the needs over the next 30 years or more.”

Most urgent is expanding the line’s big junction station at Commercial-Broadway, both to handle connecting Evergreen Line trains starting in 2016 as well as the 50,000 bus passengers that transfer there daily.

Crews will build a new east platform for westbound Expo Line trains and the overhead walkway over Broadway will be twinned, along with other improvements. Work is slated for fall 2014 to summer of 2016.

Some of the most intensive work will happen at Metrotown, the system’s second busiest station.

Users have already lodged concerns that relocating the bus loop further away will mean a longer walk to the station, but Busby said planners are taking the feedback into account and no final decision has been made on the loop’s placement.

Busby said the existing loop isn’t adequate to meet current demand, let alone what’s expected to come.

Work has been underway for months at Scott Road, adding a new elevator, a redesigned bus loop and other improvements, and is expected to wrap up this winter.

Surrey Central’s upgrade is still in the planning stages, with no details available yet.

Among the improvements coming are secure bike storage rooms for Main Street, Commercial-Broadway, Joyce and Metrotown.

Unlike existing bike lockers that are rented on a monthly basis, the storage rooms will  be more flexible, allowing riders to store their bikes there by the day.

Busby said TransLink is encouraging cities to work with developers to include bike storage rooms near other stations, adding one is coming near Marine Drive Station on the Canada Line.

There are also aesthetic improvements, including improved lighting and more than $500,000 worth of public art.

Public art projects are earmarked for Main Street, Commercial-Broadway and Metrotown but the actual artists and works have yet to be determined by a selection group that has representation from local cities.

“We’re trying to improve the station experience,” Busby said. “There’s a real opportunity to do that when the stations are being designed and constructed.”

TransLink spokesperson Jiana Ling said the public art budget is 0.33 per cent of the total and less than the 0.5 to 1.5 per cent of art budgets in comparable public transit projects elsewhere.

All of the seven station upgrades are to be done by the end of 2016.

TransLink is spending the money because it was already approved in its 2012 plan, with $82 million contributed by the province and $41 million coming from the federal government.

More stations also need upgrades, but those will wait until TransLink gets more funding for transit.

 

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