The wrapping is coming off.

It now looks like the Canada Line will start running about mid-August, close to the time that Granville Mall should be completed.

Granville Mall - Jul 25 09 2

On Saturday, the Canada Line gave a sneak preview of what will be one of their busiest stations: City Centre.

Canada Line City Centre 2

First impression: adequate, but aesthetically disappointing.

The above-ground entrance pavilion is from the school of Fifties Federalism: a grey-granite block, staid and formal, relating only incidentally to its surroundings.

Canada Line City Centre 1

There’s a token presence of wood – and it’s clumsily handled:

Canada Line station - wood overhang

The awning looks as though it was designed and fabricated in the metal shop, and then painted grey because, well, that’s all they had. 

At least the station has room to breathe on its Pacific Centre plaza.  The platform,  like New York’s subway, is only a short distance below ground, and indeed has a big-city metro feel:

Canada Line City Centre platform

But the platform, like the cars, is undersized by contemporary metro standards – and I suspect we’ll find out the real cost of that in the not-too-distant future.

Canada Line car interior

The station walls are faced with blue-grey tiles and two-toned slabs of stone, everything in order, very discrete and rather boring.

Canada Line City Centre walls

There’s a desperate need for public art to give the Canada Line some liveliness – and I was told there’s a budget for art that will change every six months or so.   Thank god.

Canada Line station interior

At this point, the coolest thing about City Centre station is the tunnel.  Heading south, it has the promise of  a PNE ride.

Canada Line City Centre tunnel


  1. wow. Those platforms are absolutely tiny. I never really noticed that in any of the other photos. I think it’s going to get pretty uncomfortable pretty quickly down there.

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  3. Note that the stationhouse is expected to be incorporated into a future expansion of Pacific Centre onto the plaza.

    The newspapers reported on the art program – which won’t be ready in time for the opening, since the opening is ahead of schedule.

  4. I actually don’t mind the outside, it has a pleasing sort of utilitarianism about it, and it seems to me to fit well into the neighbourhood. Wasn’t aware of the building expansion, though, any more information on that, Ron?

  5. If you search back in City Council Minutes from a couple of years ago you’ll final the staff report (but the City website’s search function doesn’t work very well).
    It’s part of the rezoning under which Cadillac Fairview was allowed to demolish the public amenity at the north end of the mall (the atrium) to expand Holt Renfrew – the Canada Line entry on the Pacific Centre site and new elevator access to the Pacific Centre parkade were the trade-off for the demolition of the atrium. The in-filling of the Georgia & Howe (currently on hold due to the recession?) and the Georgia & Granville plazas are also part of the rezoning.

  6. The expansion of Pacific Centre onto the plaza area is also expected to produce a large bike parkade and post-ride shower facilities most likely for a monthly/daily fee. It would involve losing some parking spaces down below and providing a elevator as well as ramp access. Unfortunately it’s unlikely to proceed for a bit due to both the economic conditions and the existing lease with Sears which is very unlikely to be broken given the sweetheart rates they inheirated.

    The cameras are mounted the way they are due to the new standard in CPTED in which cameras are mounted in plain and obvious visibility to try and deter crime. Wether it works better then the old way we’ll have to wait a few years to study the effect.

  7. Visually pretty dissappointing especially in comparison with the new stations in Seattle. Judging from the photos I saw in one of the Seattle papers last weekend, they look terrific. The pictures posted here are definitely a step up from the urinal white of the Expo line’s downtown stations, but pretty boring nonetheless. Platforms seem dinky too and will probably be at capacity in no time.

  8. While I think that the SkyTrain Canada Line features some poor system design choices, I must come to its rescue and point out that Gordon Price’s photo of the platform was taken from approximately the half-way point. There is still another 20 to 25 metres of platform behind him. The 50-metre platform is certainly shorter than the 80-metre platforms were are used to on the existing SkyTrain lines but the photo exaggerates this.

    None the less, thanks for the thorough account of the open house. I think that the station design is pretty utilitarian but they are also generously more spacious than I was expecting.

  9. it’s not really the length of the platform that horrified me, it was the width. There’s hardly any space to walk past people, let alone fill with rush hour commuters. Now, I haven’t been down there, maybe there’s more than the photo shows, but it looks like it’ll be a problem.

  10. The pictures that Sungsu posted give a better impression – there is more room on the platform than it looked like at first. But the space still looks undersized for what will be one of the busiest stations on the whole network. Take a look at this shot from the Montreal Metro to get a sense of how much room a big city metro station provides (this is a two level station, but compare just one of the levels)

    Also, on the aesthetic side, and again using a Montreal metro example, could we not have had a bit of colour, light and visual appeal?

  11. Thanks for the photos, Sungsu, that provides a much clearer picture of the whole station, but I’d still say it’s too small. The main waiting area and getting on/getting off area is still those long, parts right by the tracks, and they should be wider for a station that’s going to handle so many people. Imagine a full train arriving from Richmond first thing in the morning and three quarters of the people could get off. That’s a few hundred people every six minutes, mingling with those waiting for trains. It’s going to get really crowded down there.

    The upstairs lobby area looks much better preportioned, but still small relative to what most other modern subways provide. Montreal is a great example – the berri-uqam metro station is huuuuge.

  12. As mentioned above – the art has been delayed because of the early opening. There will be art installed.

    Personally, I’d rather have a neutral generic station rather than a design/style that clearly dates a station – look at the stations in Seattle’s bus tunnel – they SCREAM late 1980s “PoMo” shopping centre!


    From what I understand, automated transit systems are designed for frequent headways so station platforms are cleared quickly. i.e. running frequent shorter trains rather than infrequent longer trains.

    The scale of the Canada Line is very similar to the scale of the Copenhagen Metro (also an automated system).

    The Montreal stations were built in a different era – and even looking at recent subway construction in Toronto you question whether it is wise to “overbuild”. It’s Sheppard Line stations were finished at a shorter length than its other stations because of ridership and cost and the cost of its stubby Spadina Line extension to full subway standards is hugely expensive.

    There’s some limited expansion space built into the Canada Line if it becomes overloaded with the initial trainsets, and farther down the road, a second line can be built down Arbutus in 50 years if necessary.

  13. If ridership doesn’t catch up then you’re right, Ron, but I don’t think we should be banking on poor ridership. This system is designed with stations that are too short to begin with, and the small extensions won’t even bring it up to regular skytrain standards. They already routinely run four car mkII trains, and the Canada Line designers should have been thinking 20 years down the road with this at the least, when higher ridership is pretty reasonable to expect. Certainly the cost of renovating those stations if they prove insufficient will be extraordinary.

    Montreal certainly didn’t overbuild, those stations are well utilized.

    And yes the Arbutus corridor is a good place to build new transit, but I don’t see it fulfilling the same sort of function as the Canada Line, and I don’t think it’s likely to generate the same level of ridership over the long term. I certainly haven’t heard many people talking about building it out to Richmond, but rather continuing along the north side of the Fraser river to the east fraserlands development.

    Like I said, though, don’t mind the station decor that much. They could have done a better job for sure, the millenium line stations are amazing, but they sure beat the old expo line stations.

  14. The problem with building for future ridership is that at the time the naysayers were saying that the line would never achieve 100,000 riders per day (the projected ridership).

    So how could the government then justify the allocation of $100s of millions extra for future expansion?

    RAVCo at the time established an ultimate capacity of 15,000 passengers per direction per hour.

    That’s what the proponents bid towards – whether it was accomplished by short wide trains (InTransitBC) or narrow long trains (Bombardier MKII). Bombardier MKII SkyTrain has a maximum capacity greater than that – somewhere around 25-30,000 ppdph.

    But a significant factor is that Richmond is not a “growth concentration area” under the LRSP because its a flood plain and will liquify in an earthquake. There is far more population growth in Burnaby, Surrey and the Langleys than there will be in Richmond (hence the higher capacities required there). Vancouverites may think of it as heavily populated because they dash to and fro for meals and shopping, but the population will always be outpaced by Surrey and the Fraser Valley. This level of ridership is also reflected in the initial operating schedule – at late night, the combined service is only every 10 minutes and the branch line service is only every 20 minutes – that like an LRT line! Presumably schedules will be adjusted if demand exists. But at least the Canada Line service will be fast.

    I think that I’ve mentioned this before in comments on this blog, but I suspect that the difference in bid price between Bombardier and InTransitBC has ALOT to do with 50m stations versus Bombardier 80m stations. Recall that station platforms must be generally flat. Since station locations are generally fixed, that impacts the grade between stations (i.e. less distance to traverse the change in elevation) – if the grade is too steep, then the uphill station must be built deeper to lessen the grade. Deeper stations cost more to excavate and construct. That would have probably required a bored tunnel throughout.

    While InTransitBC’s bid was the lowest, even it was high – there had to be scope changes to bring it within the funding envelope.

    Summary of the bids here:

  15. Those are good points, Ron. We’ll see how it looks when it opens. But keep in mind, a lot of the reason bombardier lost the bid was because they weren’t allowed to include the efficiencies of linking up with an existing system, which would have likely made the whole thing quite a bit cheaper. That was because it would have made it an uneven playing field, against the rules of a P3.

  16. Also, and my apologies for the second post, keep in mind Richmond is growing regardless of what they’re supposed to do, and it’s growing increasingly dense, too. Add rapid transit and I expect that will continue.

  17. True about Richmond – its downtown is densifying quite nicely – some of those mide-rise towers are quite close to each other!

    I wish that Richmond would put its trade & convention cntre in Minoru or No. 3 Rd. rather than suggesting the Garden City lands (not for environmental reasons, but for a centrally located location reasons).

    It will be interesting to see how full the trains will be. That’ll also affect the operating subsidy that TransLink will have to pay to InTransitBC until the line reaches the projected ridership. The fuller the better!

  18. I don’t think there will be a capacity issue. The Canada Line cars hold twice the capacity of the current Skytrain cars, so they are equivalent to the 4 car trains that the Expo and Millennium lines run. The 40m platforms are all expandable to 50m, meaning they can add another car in the future if required. The Expo and Millenium lines are still not running 6 car trains yet so I don’t think there’s anything to worry about.

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