British Columbia

TransLink has a poopy pigeon problem on its hands at new Expo Line platform

The opening of a new SkyTrain platform in Vancouver is just weeks away, but pigeons have already moved in, and TransLink is trying to get a poop problem under control.

'Pretty severe' pigeon issue at new platform is 'taxing' TransLink resources.

TransLink workers scrape and vacuum pigeon excrement off the tiled SkyTrain platform at Commercial and Broadway. The platform is set to open in the new year. (Denis Grenier/CBC)

The opening of a new Expo Line SkyTrain platform at Broadway and Commercial in Vancouver is still weeks away, but pigeons have already moved into the space, and they're creating a bit of a poop problem for TransLink.

The platform's design is graceful, reminiscent of an Expo '86 aesthetic, with prominent, white posts extending high toward the ceiling. Near the tops of the posts, they split into multiple angled branches, supporting the ceiling and creating a visually appealing nest for the platform's lighting.

Unfortunately for the platform's designers, the architecture also creates a perfect perch for pigeons — lots of pigeons — and cleaning their excrement has become a "significant issue," and daily chore.

"Pigeons are a real serious nuisance issue, and actually have operational impacts for the system," said TransLink spokesperson Chris Bryan. "Particularly at this location, it's pretty severe, so it's really taxing our resources."

On Friday morning, a two-person crew could be seen scraping and vacuuming the excrement off the platform. Above the workers, the angled supports were wrapped in plastic. The pigeons perched there appeared to be undisturbed by the work going on below.

A handful of pigeons can be seen perched on the new SkyTrain platform at the Commercial-Broadway SlyTrain station. (Denis Grenier/CBC)

According to Bryan, janitorial crews are tasked with a daily cleaning routine at the non-operational platform and for tough-to-reach spots up high, contractors have to be brought in to do the job.

Bryan said the issue of pigeon nuisance is well-known to the transit authority, and was included in the design considerations provided to architects.

"We don't necessarily design around the pigeons, but we just have to make sure we put features in, like spikes and netting," he said. "They're good deterrents in some areas, but they don't get rid of the pigeons altogether."

The architectural renderings released by TransLink in 2014 don't appear to include spikes and netting around the posts.

An architectural rendering from 2014 shows the general design of the new Expo Line platform at Commercial and Broadway in Vancouver. Pigeons — and any design features to deter them — are absent from the image. (TransLink)

"Ideally, we wouldn't be using them at all, but pigeons have a significant impact on SkyTrain; we can have up to 20 per cent of our intrusion alarms that stop trains ... triggered by pigeons," said Bryan, adding that the reliability of the network is hampered by the birds.

He said the transit authority has had success with a falcon program along the Millennium Line, and the falcon handler will soon be seen at the Commercial-Broadway station.

"It's not a permanent solution, so we are working hard on a permanent solution to really address the pigeon issue," said Bryan.

The platform is expected to open early in the new year, likely before February.


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About the Author

Rafferty Baker is CBC Vancouver's mobile journalist. Follow him @raffertybaker

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