Vancouver-Pacific Central Station is the main intercity transportation center for Vancouver. The stop is home to VIA Rail Canada's Triweekly Canadian that runs all the way across to Toronto, and two daily Amtrak Cascade trips down to Seattle, with one extended to Portland, Oregon. It is also a main Bus Depot for Vancouver, for Greyhound and Pacific Coach Lines. The stop is two blocks away from the Main Street-Science World SkyTrain Station and about 1 mile from the new Rocky Mountaineer Station that opened in 2005. Rocky Mountaineer used Pacific Central Station from its creation until 2004.
As of October 2011 the facade of the historic 1919 train station is under restoration so there is scaffolding up all around it. By 2014 the restoration was complete Through the entrance (currently a narrow entrance in the scaffolding) passengers reach a long and narrow waiting room with a restored ceiling and some skylights. Straight ahead are the boarding gates for trains. On the north wall of the station is the VIA ticket office with four windows all with LED displays that also sells and issue Amtrak tickets. The technology each train company uses normally is incompatible; this office has to have two different printers for the different types of tickets. There are a few shops, and a Currency Exchange (Bureau de Change). At the southern end of the station are the bus ticket counters and bus boarding gates located alongside the rail platforms and is generally the more crowded area. Buses board from a covered outdoor area with bus bays and a mini-security/ticket checkpoint for passengers before they enter. The bus bays provide a nice view of the Amtrak platforms
To board trains: there are separate gates for VIA and Amtrak. VIA's gates lead out directly to a few canopied platforms. There is also a Panorama Lounge that opens at 6:30pm before Canadian departures and includes a small indoor lounge with a nice outdoor patio with views of the platforms and train for passengers to wait before boarding begins, generally an hour before departure. Coffee, Tea and Cookies are provided with minimal other amenities. Beyond them is a train yard where maintenance is done by VIA on its trains, the Canadian in particular. It also maintains the West Coast Express fleet here as well.
Amtrak passengers have more complicated boarding procedures, because immigration (and customs for Canadian arrivals) is taken care of directly in the station with U.S. and Canadian Check-in closes a good deal (20 minutes I believe) prior to a train's departure. First passengers line up inside the station and get their ticket collected by the conductors who issue a seat check that also normally includes a seat assignment (if the train has any sort of crowd, these are from pre-printed stickers). Passengers are also required to fill out US Customs Forms by now (which are generally given when tickets are issued at the ticket counter). Next passengers proceed into a small immigration room with four immigration desks. Here departing passengers meet with US Immigration Agents (who are not allowed to carry weapons like they usually do at actual boarder crossings, this would infringe on Canada's sovereignty) at one of three desks, here the standard questions are asked and the standard US customs form is stamped but not collected. Next there is a large airline style X-ray machine where all luggage is screened for U.S.-bound passengers by a private security company. Then passengers can proceed out to a caged platform (since it is basically in another country) surrounded by very high gates, barbed wire fencing and a metal canopy that covers only about a car length with the Intercity bus bays just beyond the single track (with a high fence on that side as well), There is even a gate at the end of the track before it switches into the yard that is kept closed and locked with security just opening it when trains are entering and leaving. Here the Cascades Trainset is waiting for boarding normally in push-mode. Baggage can be checked right on the platform while walking by the baggage car that is normally located before any of the passenger coaches. VIA baggage handlers do this duty and tag bags using the standard Amtrak tags. Sometimes the morning arrival, southbound departure train runs without a cab car and is wyed either during the midday, or before departing for Seattle with passengers. Passengers keep walking and reach the open train doors, entering their assigned car to wait for departure. After departure about an hour and a half later in view of the Piece Arch right along the US Boarder the train stops again and customs agents walk through collecting US Customs cards and rechecking passports if necessary. This is generally a relatively quick stop (on a trip just 12 minutes), unlike the roughly hour that the two other trans-boarder trains, the Maple Leaf and Adirondack can be delayed.
Arriving into Vancouver there is no stop at the border because both immigration and customs are cleared in the station. Passengers are asked to wait in their seats while the checked baggage is unloaded and then passengers (with Business Class offloaded first, even though its normally at the back of the arriving train) are released onto the platform car by car. Passengers then walk down the platform and wait in line under the end of the platform that's covered (the canopy is long enough that except on a very busy day all passengers should get covering. Passengers then clear Canadian Customs and Immigration sitting at the opposite ends of the 4 desks used by US Immigration. Even arriving on a Sunday morning on a relatively crowded train the process felt extremely efficient. The room with the baggage X-ray machines is locked, passengers don't have to pass through it and scan their bags.
Last Updated: 6 December, 2011