The best and worst stations to stand around in for five minutes
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
When it comes to transit, there may be no more of an interesting system in North America than the one we have here in Metro Vancouver. The SkyTrain, with its elevated track and driverless trains, certainly stand apart from its contemporaries. A feature that does not get enough credit is the SkyTrain stops. These are some of the biggest landmarks in their area. In downtown Surrey and Coquitlam, the stations are an iconic staple of the city. Seeing the importance of these stations as pillars of the community, which ones are the best and which ones are the worst on the line? Here are some of the select stations, and some of the absolute worst.
New Westminster Station:
Had this been 10 years ago, this station would have likely trended towards the bottom. Before its renovation, it was very sketchy. Now though, this station has become one of the best—if not the best in the line. It has all the amenities you could want right in the station. There’s the Landmark movie theatre, the Old Spaghetti Factory, the 8th Street Liquor Store, a Safeway, a MINISO, a Shoppers Drug Mart—and even a Pizza Garden. Also, with the restaurants being so close to the platforms, you can buy something like a lottery ticket or a snack with little hassle, as the station is connected to the mall. It’s also near the Anvil Centre, Douglas College New West, and a block away from Columbia Street. It also has a lot of parking, and a bus loop that is covered by the buildings so you don’t get rained on. It may be light on art, with the exception of the outside of the building (which my mother told me she found ugly) but aside from that, it hands down has the best access to food and amenities of any station. Even the downtown ones.
The new walkway that allows you to board the westbound train from both sides is pretty cool and efficient. Along with this, the station also has some pretty cool artwork on the ground that is inspired by nature and First Nations art. It also has a SkyTrain customer service counter, which after suffering a nosebleed at Lake City Way station last week and having to ride bleeding into my toque, I was glad to have. There are not as many amenities here as I would wish, but it does have The Rio, and lots of food options, and that’s enough. It does not have a lot of parking, but the closer you get to Vancouver the less you need it. It is also the location of many bus routes, so there is a lot happening and going right at this station.
This station has probably received the most growth of any station on the Canada Line, with the Marine Gateway shopping area right next to it. There is a movie theatre, pub, and many other stores inside. Although it does not much parking, but it is a fairly active bus hub. Also, the fact that it’s above ground makes it feel less claustrophobic than the underground stations on the line. Not much art at the station, but after coming out of the underground tunnel, the view is art enough.
One stop away from one of the best stations—New Westminster Station—this station is a great place to visit the mole people. Not only is it dark and dreary, it’s incredibly dirty and suspiciously humid. I know it was built before the Millennium line was, and that it was intended to only go to Surrey, but they must have known that a route towards Coquitlam and Burnaby was in the cards. So, why did they build this with the tracks going down the middle of the station? If you want to get to Surrey from the westbound side, you have to get off the train, walk down stairs, and then walk up stairs that have no escalator to the other platform. That along with no parking and very few buses make this station a terrible wait.
Unless you have a hankering for milk, there is not much here. It’s like in the planning they just said “Meh, the train is traveling too long without a stop. Let’s just put one in the middle of nowhere.” Yeah, there is access to the park, but there are parks all over the place. Not enough of a reason for a SkyTrain stop.
Really all the Canada Line stations are terrible. The platforms are all too small and, despite being built in 2009, they didn’t put any retail space in most of these stations outside of friggin’ Jugo Juices! I picked Broadway City Hall, because despite the fact that it does have transit and parking, it also has this weird thing where if you walk up the incline out of the station on a rainy day, there is this grate going across the ground—and if this thing is even a little bit wet, you will be slipping and sliding. I nearly killed myself stepping on it one time. Hopefully the station will become better with the Broadway SkyTrain extension, seeing as it will become a hub—to not do anything to the station would be a loss.
Overall, the SkyTrain stations, while very cookie cutter in look, work better than you would expect. Even stations that are over 35 years old have a lot of significance and charm. The SkyTrain was built not only for the present, but also for the future. It’s part of the reason why I like it better than a street level light rail transit (LRT). Compared to the SkyTrain stations, an LRT stop just looks like a glorified bus stop. Whether you are going to school, downtown, or taking a tour of Metro Vancouver’s litany of broken escalators, SkyTrain station stops are not a bad place to spend five minutes.