Transport Action BC

2016, April 18

Robson Street to be Closed to Transit

The following was submitted by Transport Action BC to the Vancouver Sun as an op-ed piece. It was written in response to the City of Vancouver staff report recommending that the 800 block (Robson Square) of Robson Street be permanently closed to all vehicles, including transit. This proposal requires a permanent re-route of the 5-Robson bus along Burrard and Pender Streets.

The Sun declined to print the submission.

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Making Robson Square in Vancouver more welcoming to people is a great idea, if it is inclusive, accessible, and is not built at the expense of accessibility to other destinations.

However, if Vancouver wants more than a pedestrian island between two thoroughfares, it should start from a pedestrianisation strategy, making sure that pedestrianisation is not done at the expense of accessibility but enhances it and supports the city’s retail sector. Walking and cycling support many travel purposes but they have limitations in range and the ability to meet certain needs. Weather conditions, cumbersome shopping bags, travelling with children, personal mobility challenges or simply being tired are all issues that factor into a decision on how to travel: a good city transit network is needed to complement other active transportation modes, and to make sure access to the city core does not discriminate against people based on their ability to walk or cycle.

Many European cities recognize that vibrant pedestrian spaces must be accessible and inclusive for people of all abilities. Furthermore, with an ultimate goal to reduce auto usage in their centres, their pedestrian spaces are not built at the expense of transit. Rather, transit is seen as the connecting spine of pedestrian spaces. That is why European cities have mastered the art of seamless and safe integration of transit into their pedestrian realms. This is a recipe also successfully applied in Denver’s 16th Sreet Mall.

The importance of transit to the success of pedestrian places was recognized by Arthur Erickson in 1974, when he was envisioning Robson Square: “The only traffic through the Square will be inner city buses, linking the West End and False Creek. Since buses function as people movers, they are seen as a compliment or enhancement to the pedestrian activity of the civic square…”.

The foundation principles for a good transit network, upon which a good pedestrianisation policy can be built, are well-known, and were recognized in the 1975 Vancouver downtown bus review . The most important is to have direct routes going straight to the center of gravity of an area to minimize walking. That is how the downtown bus grid network was built, why retail strips gather along it, and why the current Robson bus route is well patronized with over 3,000,000 passengers per year. A detour to avoid Robson Square may mean little for a motorist but for a transit customer, it means a less legible route with compromised connections to the rest of the network. It forces transit users on a circuitous routing, eliminates the quickest and most direct connections to the rapid transit system, penalises riders who wish to transfer to southbound buses on Granville, and inserts a gap in the transit grid on one of downtown’s few major east/west transit routes. Ultimately it results in a less accessible Robson retail strip, as well as a less inclusive Robson Square for the most vulnerable people.

Closing Robson Square to transit fails on all counts of accessibility and inclusiveness. Additionally TransLink estimates that the bus detour could add $300,000.00 to the route’s annual operating cost. Will the City cover those additional costs?

Robson Square has been a popular downtown meeting spot but the Canada Line opening and recent proposals for the VAG North Plaza indicate that a square facing Georgia Street could be the new ‘natural’ meeting place downtown since it closer to rapid transit and regional bus services than Robson Square.

Prudence dictates that a decision to close the 800 block of Robson should be delayed until the VAG North Plaza changes are completed and their impact evaluated. A successful public space rehabilitation of the North Plaza could render the Robson closure anachronistic, and even be detrimental to the North plaza success, without granting success to the Robson Square, since the level of pedestrian activity may not be great enough to activate both squares.

Rather than a case by case street closure policy built at the expense of transit and inclusion of people of all abilities, a better approach is to learn from the successes in Europe and North America, to develop an effective and ambitious pedestrian oriented space strategy; which doesn’t necessarily mean full closure of streets; but which is articulated around an efficient transit network, to effectively reduce the presence of cars in downtown without compromising its accessibility and inclusiveness.

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2014, December 17

SkyTrain Expo Line Station Upgrade Project – 1

Filed under: Buses, city transit, Pedestrian, Rapid Transit, Regional transit — Tags: , , , — Rick @ 10:05 pm

TransLink is upgrading several Expo Line SkyTrain stations. The upgrades are needed due to the age (some are almost 30 years old) of the stations and to improve passenger flow, accessibility, capacity and security. This is a large, multi-year project. Details are found here. The second phase of public consultation for Joyce-Collingwood and Metrotown Stations was recently completed. Transport Action BC is supportive of this project but has some concerns based on information provided during the latest round of public consultations.

TransLink (TL) responded to the concerns on January 15, 2015.

Joyce-Collingwood Station : The Joyce-Collingwood Station east station house exits are underused while the bus loop (west station house) generates significant congestion at its exits. Also, note that Route 43 generates pedestrian congestion between Bus Bay 5 (Joyce St., south of Vanness Ave.) and the station. The long-term vision addresses these issues but the current project phasing does not as it only proposes to upgrade the east station house. The re-location of the Joyce-Collingwood Station bus loop should be concurrent with the east station house upgrade to improve the transit customer experience.

TL – The East Station House is being upgraded first as a result of the Upgrade project’s key goal of doubling the Expo Line’s capacity. The project’s funding agreement with senior governments is conditional on addressing this goal.

At the December 1, 2014 open house, it was mentioned that the bus loop re-location required more funding to acquire the necessary land. The City of Vancouver owns this land so an agreement allowing TransLink to use it, without purchasing it, should not be impossible to negotiate. A funding shortfall could be addressed by re-scheduling the installation of the bike storage room.

TL – The land parcel in question is not owned by the City of Vancouver. The purchase cost exceeds the current project’s budget. The land will be acquired when funds become available and a purchase agreement is negotiated.

Issues with the long-term vision include: • There will be several intersections (streets, laneways and bus loop entrances) in this short section of Joyce St. These may negatively impact pedestrian, transit and traffic operations around the station. TransLink and the City of Vancouver should work together and consider merging laneways and bus loop access/egress to mitigate excessive mode conflicts. This will especially be true at the northeast access from Joyce St. as redevelopment of 5050 Joyce St. is proposed.

TL – TransLink and the City of Vancouver are working to improve station area safety. Laneway access issues are within the scope of this effort.

• The bike storage area could be better located next to the east station house rather than in the middle of re-located bus loop which is seen to be very busy.

TL – The proposed bike storage area is within the East Station House as this is the closest station location to the densest part of the neighbourhood. Minimising conflicts between cyclists and other station users is being addressed by TransLink and the City of Vancouver.

• Similarly, the taxi stand could be located nearer the east station house to improve accessibility and visibility from station exits and Joyce Street.

TL – The taxi stand will be located as close to the East Station House as safely possible. Bus stops will be located immediately next to the station house, allowing safe and convenient transfers.

Metrotown Station: The proposed design re-locates the “major bus routes” to the south side of Central Boulevard. Thus, buses will be facing southeast as they load but their destination is west (Routes 49, 430) and north Willingdon (Routes 129, 130). This is a concern because it implies routing these vehicles along Central Boulevard, Imperial Street and Willingdon to route. This will increase passenger travel time by several minutes for those heading west and north. It will also increase operating costs of these routes.

TL – TransLink acknowledges that travel time for routes 49, 129, 130 and 430 will increase by several minutes under the proposed service design using South Central Boulevard. However, these are the busiest routes serving Metrotown. The design allows direct drop-off and pick-up at the station, improving connectivity between SkyTrain and surface routes. The City of Burnaby was involved in the development of this service design, ensuring “neighbourhood integration plans” were considered. [Rick: the decision to increase travel time on Route 49 is somewhat ironic. TransLink’s service optimisation identified the Champlain Heights jog on this route as a candidate for elimination – to reduce customer travel time]

We suggest that Bus Bay assignments be reviewed to reduce passenger travel time and operating costs. For example: • Routes 49, 129, 130 and 430 drop-off on South Central Boulevard and pick-up in the existing bus loop. • Routes arriving from east Central Boulevard drop-off on North Central Boulevard and pick-up on South Central Boulevard, east of the existing bus loop. • Local Routes C6, C7 and 116, serving South Burnaby drop-off and pick-up on North Beresford Street. We also suggest that the design of the station houses be refined to maximize the waiting area for bus patrons along South Central Boulevard and reduce the walking distance between the SkyTrain platform and bus bays. A direct pedestrian access to the bus loop island from the passerelle should be considered as well. These concerns have been given to TransLink. We will update as responses become available.

2012, November 25

Transport Action BC opposed to closure of Robson Square to buses

Transport Action BC is concerned with the City’s decision to extend the Robson Street closure between Howe and Hornby Streets for an extended trial that is seems intended to become permanent. The closure has serious implications for transit users that must be considered.

The bus re-route around the closure is circuitous, particularly for those on Robson wishing to use the Canada Line or southbound buses on Granville Mall. TransLink schedules five to seven minutes travel time from Robson & Burrard to Pender & Granville. Transit users wishing to travel south then spend more time getting back to Robson Street. Thus, transit riders are penalised over ten minutes for every one-way trip compared to the direct route on Robson. Walking to Granville Street from Burrard & Robson is quicker for transit connections but this is unattractive for seniors or those with mobility aids, and even less attractive in the wetter, colder months. Additionally, the re-route forces an additional transfer on those who wish to board the Canada Line at City Centre Station.

The net effect of the closure from a transit customer’s perspective is highly unfavourable. Anyone with a choice between transit and driving will find driving relatively more direct and attractive while those without access to a car are taken needlessly out of their way and forced to make additional transfers.

Creating active, pedestrian plazas is laudable. However, it is ironic that in a city aiming to be “green”, the two streets chosen for long-term “activations” are major transit corridors. By routinely diverting transit from these streets the City is reducing the legibility, directness and overall attractiveness of transit. Meanwhile, no effort is spared in providing on-street parking on other streets where corner bulges and wider sidewalks could make permanent improvements in walking conditions throughout the city. Existing plazas, such as those at Robson Square, the Art Gallery and Main Library function far below their potential, presenting off-street opportunities for improving pedestrian amenities.

We suggest that the City take a more holistic view of its transportation priorities before making a final decision on permanently closing the 800 block of Robson to transit. Such considerations must also figure prominently in Viva Vancouver’s seasonal closures.

Buses will play a major role in Vancouver long into the future. It is time surface transit received more respect from City Hall.

Adapted from a letter Transport Action BC sent to Vancouver City Council
More on this topic on Price Tags blog. Circling the Square.

2012, May 11

Kamloops Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge

Filed under: Pedestrian — Tags: , , , , , — Matthew @ 10:25 pm

The long awaited bridge and paths linking the eastern end of downtown with the Rivers trail and the Valleyview are complete. See the bridge and trails on OpenStreetMap. The bridge and trail will do a lot for walking and cycling in Kamloops; linking parts of the city that have been disconnected for decades. The highway interchange (the Trans Canada and the Yellowhead Highway junction) and the Canadian Pacific mainline go through the area. There hasn’t been a safe way to walk between Valleyview and the central area of Kamloops until this new path opened.

Some people complained about the high cost of the trails and bridge, saying that the money would have been better spent building more parking spaces at the hospital. It certainly was expensive and did go over budget, but it was a difficult site with the railway and highway on-ramps in close proximity, and both had to remain open at all times. A lot of retaining walls had to be built to squeeze the trail in between the existing lanes. Poor decisions in the past when the interchanges was built led to this expensive solution today. Why didn’t they build a proper sidewalk at the time? That’s a good question, but I think the idea was that people should be forced into cars or the infrequent bus. Walkers and cyclists were just not thought important enough. We’ve come a long way since those dark days, but it is still an uphill battle to get proper and safe sidewalks, paths and bike lanes so that there are real alternatives to driving. I think Kamloopsians will grow to appreciate this important link on the eastern side of the city.

Coincident with the new bridge and paths is a new designated bike lane through central Kamloops. Aligning along Nicola and St Paul streets, which see less car traffic then nearby roads, it links the new bridge to the west (downtown). The north side of the bridge connects to the River’s Trail and an unpleasant sidewalk on the Yellowhead highway bridge towards Tk’emlups Band territory. The east link connects to on-road bike lanes on Valleyview Drive.

These links will certainly attract a lot of users once they discover it, but the bike route will soon frustrate commuter cyclists due to the number of stop signs and “Stop and Dismount” signs.

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2010, May 25

Arbutus Corridor Update

Filed under: Inter-city rail, Pedestrian, Streetcar-LRT — Rick @ 9:10 pm

A lengthy article in The Vancouver Courier  discusses the history of the Arbutus Corridor (aka CP Rail’s Marpole spur) since rail service was halted in 1999. Various interest groups and the City of Vancouver have abundant ideas on what to do with this large chunk of undeveloped land on Vancouver’s west side.

http://www.vancourier.com/business/track+minds/3025683/story.html

2010, March 2

New York City Pedestrianises Broadway

Filed under: Pedestrian — Matthew @ 10:04 pm
New York City has decided that the pedestrian plazas and traffic changes made to part of its Broadway corridor will become permanent. The changes have improved pedestrian safety, motor vehicle speeds and are well-liked by the public. The initial ‘temporary’ construction will be given a refurbishment pending a design competition. Final construction will start in 2012.

Highlights at: Broadway Makeover is a hit
Full details at: Broadway Report (PDF 4.0 MB)

Will something similar happen to Granville Street in downtown Vancouver?

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