The Worst SkyTrain Station is Scott Road
One of the questions that is easy for me to answer is my favourite SkyTrain station, but the more difficult question is what is my most-hated.
The answer to my favourite won’t be provided in this article, but it is rooted in my ability as a person, my commuting patterns, and where I live. This means that I cannot give an objective answer to a good or bad station because my needs and uses are different from everyone else.
So how did I determine the worst SkyTrain station? Well, after being unable to come to a conclusion after a conversation with friends, I embarked on crowdsourcing the answer using a tournament bracket.
Asking ELMTOTs about every station in the SkyTrain and West Coast Express network
SkyTrain consists of a handful of automated metro lines, with 53 stations spread across a total length of about 80 KM. The West Coast Express (WCE) provides commuter rail services to eight stations along 69 KM of shared track, with three of them sharing connections to the SkyTrain network itself.
Because of the unevenness of the number of stations provided in the present-day SkyTrain network, WCE stations were included to make it easier to run a tournament bracket. The thought was that since both are operated by TransLink (the parent agency) and were both rail services, it was fair to have them scrutinized.
Expo Line Memes for TransLink Oriented Teens (ELTMOT), is a Facebook group where transit users can come together to chat about what they like or dislike about the network, share memes, and in my case, provide a “very scientific” tournament where each member of the group were invited to help select the worst station.
With the tournament, there were six rounds. In each, a separate poll was posted for each match-up of two stations. With one vote per person permitted and three days passing, a winner (or “loser”, I guess) was decided. The station with the most votes went on to the next round and this kept repeating until the finals.
Some stations did not appear until the second round, but the way the tournament was organized was done at random, avoiding any potential for bias when the list was given to the bracket software.
There were dozens of posts made of which admittedly was a lot more work than I had expected. Somehow I managed to endure the 43 C heat dome at the onset of the poll too, but I was determined (or stubborn) enough to keep it going as it was a question requiring an answer.
From June 21st to July 27th of this year, the voting kept going. After so many posts and data entry, the worst station was crowned as the winner.
So let’s talk about the winner and also let’s pay it a visit.
What did everyone say against the station?
I have collected a few quotes from various ELMTOT members and have included them here.
“Scott Road Station is objectively … not a good place to be.”
“If you walk from Scott Road Station to Brownsville Park via the parking lot, you get stuck in the middle of a highway so that’s cool.”
“Scott Road is such a depressing station. Nothing interesting, nothing remotely aesthetically pleasing, It’s just sadness.”
“Wanna run all the way across a parking lot and then cross a road with no sidewalks and horribly placed crosswalks to get to a McDonalds”
“I hate Scott Road Station personally because for a couple years on Sundays as a teenager, I would miss the 312 [bus route] by a few minutes and end up waiting there an hour. Nothing to do, nowhere to pee, phone battery at 4%… fuck Scott Road Station.”
One person did defend the highway connections and available parking, but overall the impressions of the station were negative.
Okay. So why specifically is Scott Road so bad?
The last time I visited this station was probably in 2008 when my then girlfriend and I chose to cross the Pattullo Bridge on foot at 11:30 PM at night to get back to my home via Scott Road Station instead of walking to the reasonably close Columbia Station, which would have taken just ten minutes.
I can remember getting off of the bridge after a twenty minute walk, with her and I being completely unsure about how to get to the station despite it being in eyeshot. The were fences in the way, resulting in a need to figure out where to cross. After some trial and error, we managed to get into one of the parking lots and boarded a train to Surrey Central.
She and I were both in our twenties then and it was one of those decisions you make because you like red wine too much. However, I am now in my thirties, no longer with said girlfriend, and additionally don’t like red wine anymore, so a sober trip to the station was in order with only a short walk from my home to a nearby station.
Scott Road is Surrey’s oldest SkyTrain station and for a few years was the only station south of the Fraser River. It sits prominently above Scott Road itself, which is the crux of its issues.
The road, Scott Road terminates just to the east of the station as it meets with King George Boulevard via an interchange, with north access leading to New Westminster via the Pattullo Bridge and south access towards Surrey’s city centre.
The interchange itself should be indicative enough of how pedestrian unfriendly the area is, but it is even worse than that because the road does mean you cannot go from one part of the station’s outside services to the other without having to go into the station itself.
Upon exiting a train, you have three options for available services: a bus loop and a car lot on the north end, and another car lot on the south end. This is extremely confusing.
The confusion about the two parking lots stems from how this station was first designed: it was meant to be a park and ride. Cars would drive to the station and either park there or would wait to pick up any departing passengers.
If you got off here during the era where your mobile phone did not have instant messaging, you’d have to ensure ahead of time that your awaiting car was in the correct location. This is less of an issue these days, but assuming everyone has a mobile phone which permits this functionality is problematic.
The station is a product of its time and is in dire need of being fixed.
As someone put it to me while we were at the station: it’s a station I didn’t know about until today and it is also a station I wish to never visit ever again.
What future is there for Scott Road?
The land around Scott Road Station is amongst the the easiest to develop in Metro Vancouver. While there are arguments against the removal of parking stalls around stations, the region has been shifting away from park and ride arrangements and instead towards expanding rail and rapid bus services and developing amenities.
The station itself has also been undergoing upgrades with escalator replacements and has had its elevators improved. There are no long-term plans to add extra transit services to the station, but it isn’t hard to imagine this station being a hub for commuter rail or rapid rail service servicing areas such as North Delta.
Unfortunately, a missed opportunity for the Pattullo Bridge replacement project is the whole Scott Road Station pedestrian situation. None of the renderings show an improvement even with the better connections from the bridge to Highway 17.
Considering the better connection to the highway from the new bridge, it may make Scott Road a much gentler road itself, but the arrangement does not appear to immediately suggest this.
What about other stations?
As mentioned before, all WCE and SkyTrain stations were evaluated.
As with all Internet-based polls, this project of mine was super scientific and free of bias, requiring zero peer-review. The results are concrete and completely infallible evidence of the general population’s opinions.
Thanks to science, we have details on who the runner ups were.
Lake City Way (Millennium Line)
This station was the runner up to Scott Road as it lost in a score of 166 to 56 in the final round. The arguments made for the station being the worst was that it was a rather unremarkable station, with not much around it other than industrial buildings and some homes within walking distance.
Maple Meadows (West Coast Express)
Surprisingly, West Coast Express stations didn’t get a lot of hate. The consensus about this station in Maple Ridge was simply how far away it was from everything else nearby. This station placed fifth overall in the tournament.
Templeton (Canada Line)
Simply put: a giant parking lot and a shopping centre. If you’re getting on here, you are probably parking your car to go to the airport as nobody seems to use the station to go buy clothes at the nearby outlet stores. It placed ninth.
After the Pattullo Bridge’s construction has concluded and with the upcoming extensions of the Millennium Line deeper into Vancouver and the Expo Line towards Langley, it may be worth revisiting this question: which station is the worst?
Perhaps in 2031, we’ll be able to talk about the worst station again and maybe then the crown will be given elsewhere.