review of the Phase 2 consultation: loop and connectivity issues

This review is eventually done in light of previous ideas exposed in those posts

Bus 17 and C23

The new route alignment are the same as the one suggested in our previous posts, so we obviously consider them as good. In order to avoid Cambie (a street targeted for aggressive pedestrianization by the City), a byzantine alternative proposal (B2) is proposed: it induces operating costs 5 time higher than the more straightforward Cambie routing [2].

    That should be enough to rule out this alternative…and the closure of Cambie

Bus 4,7 and 3,8

The improvement is obvious for route 4 and 7. For route 3 and 8, there is an issue. Thought the consolidation of the both service directions on Pender (avoiding the 30km/h Hasting speed limit) improves the legibility of the routes in the DTES, it is done at the expense of the network connectivity:

downtownbusTranslinkC1

the proposed rerouting of bus 3 and 8 Via Pender (instead of Hasting and Cordova), introduces a gap for the South East trip

  • lost of direct Transfer with the Hasting buses
  • bus 4,7 (and 200′s) East Bound, are also 2 block away of Pender, making the transfer poorer than today

We are of the opinion that e Main#Hasting is a major transfer point between bus 3,8 and Hasting buses (#14,#16,#20,#135), and for this reason we have some reservations on the 3 and 8 proposal.

The Robson and Davie loop

About the loop

The loop desire has been expressed in the phase 1 [4]: here is what reads Human Transit on loops [1]:

    Loop touch things deep in the human psyche. When community leaders are asked in a meeting to talk about their transit needs. it’s not uncommon for one of them to say, usually with circular hand gestures, that they need some kind of loop [...]. Straight lines can seem aggressive, whereas loops offer a sense of closure [...].

    If your agenda in life is to to enjoy every moment and never worry about a destination, then the appeal of loops is undeniable [...].

    But however much we may savor every moment of life, most of us still have jobs and families. so sometimes we just need to get there. We are at point A and need to be at point B as soon as possible. The shape of that desire is not a loop. It’s a straight line.

Loops also creates some operating challenges: a disturbance (delay in Transit) introduced in a loop never disappear unless the loop is opened (think Larsen effect). What is usually done is that loops are either open (London Circle line) or operated in segments (Tram T3 in Paris). Bus loops are much more prone to disturbance that segregated railway loop.

  • That is the reason of the lay-over at Davie and Denman, and all Translink loop proposals involve a second layover on Cambie
    • Those layovers undermine significantly the attractiveness of a loop for the transit user whose has either the choice to:

      • Stay in the bus if the operator allows this during his break
      • Transfer to a bus ahead in the queue at the layover

The Davie route

All options extend the Davie bus to Yaletown, then loop it back with the Robson bus via Cambie:
This shouldn’t be controversial, and respects some good Transit principles:

  • We have a single bus route serving the entire Corridor
  • And the route is anchored at Yaletown station

The Robson route

The L shape option

It is built up on the existing route 5, but instead to loop on itself via Richard, branches into the Davie bus via Cambie to make a “downtown loop”:

the L loop left Yaletown disconnected from the Robson Strasse

the L loop lefts Yaletown disconnected from the Robson Strasse

As such, beside a greater legibility (bus running both directions on all served street), this route mainly carries the same advantages/drawbacks of the current route:

  • The route, is not serving Robson east of Granville, (hence not serving Yaletown when it is natural to extend the Robson route eastward)
    • As we have seen before, it doesn’t make for a grid oriented network improving legibility and general accessibility

The option avoiding Robson square, is mainly the current seasonal routing. Beside the removal of the hook at Burrard and Robson, it doesn’t address most of its current shortcoming already pointed many times [5]:

The proposed Robson route avoiding Robson square carries all the draw back of the current seasonal one

The proposed Robson route avoiding Robson square carries all the draw back of the current seasonal one

  • The route is disconnected of the Granville bus corridor, and offers a back-ward connection with the Canada line
  • All trip toward South Vancouver or Yaletwon are penalized

  • The disconnection between Yaletwon and the Robson Strasse is even greater

The Rectangular Loop

This grid oriented loop correct the main drawback of the L loop on Robson, but offer little connectivity with the "outside world"

This grid oriented loop correct the main drawback of the L loop on Robson, but offer little connectivity with the “outside world”

The drawback of this option? The loop is pretty insulated of the rest of the network:

  • No reasonable connection with the Expo line is offered
  • No reasonable connection is offered with the Hasting buses too

But, the option has its advantages on the L shape loop:

  • It covers all Robson street

…and more generally it offers good foundations based on sound Transit principles (a grid oriented network with one bus route per corridor), from which we can elaborate to cover the connectivities weakness of the option: That is what we have done in our previous post:

What we have proposed for routes 5 and 6

See our previous post for further explanations and interaction with other routes

the Rectangular loop is "open" at Cambie#Robson to provide connectivity with the "outside world"

the Rectangular loop is “open” at Cambie#Robson to provide connectivity with the “outside world”

We hook the Rectangular loop to Stadium Station, offering a connection with the Expo line. From there, the question is:

  • Where the buses turn back and make their lay-over

As we have seen before, we extend the route up to Hasting#Main (lay over on Gore), to connect the downtown routes with the Hasting and Main route.

A consequence of this proposal, is that it introduces bus services redundancies with the Translink option C1 (routes #3 and #8 on Pender): it provides a reason to short turn those bus at the north end of Main.

Short turning of the bus 3 is something which has been done in 2008, but Translink has reverted this in face of public hostility at a time it was not as actively as now looking for better operation efficiencies. In 2014, the short turning of artics bus #3 and #8

  • pay the extension of standard bus #5 and #6 on Pender
    • That makes those routes otherwise very short, also more useful by enabling to circulate in an downtown extended to its neck and Chinatown, without the need to transfer [3]
  • The lost of a direct route between Fraser and Hasting, is also compensated by a better access to the Westend via route #5 and #6
  • A short turning at the north end of Main preserves a good connection with the Hasting corridor

Conclusion

At the exception of the proposal B2 (route #17 avoidng Cambie), the Translink option are generally a step in the good direction. Some ideas discussed in our previous post still fit and could be still valid with whatever option is proposed.

We notice, that in despite of many efforts, not only no good Transit solutions have been found to accommodate a potential closure of Robson square, but all proposed alternatives trying to accommodate such a closure end up to be tremendously expensive ($300k to $400K additional operating expense [2]…that can buy ~2 community shuttle routes).

    Who is willing to pay for it?

What the Downtown Transit review has demonstrated is that

  • Closure of Cambie should be forgotten
  • Closure of Robson square to Transit is simply unreasonable and irresponsible

The city council should accept that a good surface transit is a necessity, and that pedestrianization of streets should be done to complement it and not to impede it, as we have said many times before.


[1] Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives, Jarret Walker, Island Press, 2011

[2] Downtown Bus Service Review – Phase 2 Technical Summary City of Vancouver and Translink, 2014

[3] See also Jordan’s comment at the buzzer blog

[4] Downtown Bus Service Review – Phase 1 Consultation Summary Report City of Vancouver and Translink, 2013

[5] See also the PriceTag’s circling-the-square serie as an example where a critic of the proposed seasonal route is proposed.

The below work is built upon our previous post on the regional view. However, more important that the exact route alignments are the principles driving them: Many of those principles have already been spelled [1], among them:

  • Direct Routing
  • (1) Don’t divert routes to serve specific needs: Diversion means a less attractive service for most of the travelers
    (2) Use secondary services connecting to main ones, to serve “out of the way” area (rather than divert main routes)
    Minimize unnecessary transfers
    (3) Use the downtown grid for “random schedule” transfers
    Minimal walking distance to final destinations
    (4) Go Straight thru the “center of gravity” of an area, and not its periphery, which increases the total walking distance by half.

Coverage

As we have seen before, the most efficient coverage is achieved by 3 bus corridors.

The yellow strip represent the most efficient bus coverage of Downtown. red arrow represents necessary connectivity between bus corriior


Those bus corridors are Robson (#5), Davie (#6) and Pender (#19).

With the development of Yaletown, and more generally the Eastern side of the Downtown peninsula, it is only natural to extend both routes (5) and (6) on the eastern side of their natural corridor (resp. Robson and Davie).

Connection with the City and regional network: The waterfront station issue
From the above, it appears relatively clearly it is not possible to get both:

  • A grid oriented local bus network in downtown
  • And a good connection with Waterfront station

Furthermore, especially for the Davie bus, it is not possible to get both

  • A good connection with The Canada Line (Yaletown)
  • And a good connection with Waterfront station

We also observe that:

  • Most of the connecting ridership is generated by the Expo and Canada line
  • The potential Broadway subway will enhance this trend

  • The actual connection between the Seabus and route 5 and 6 can be considered as poor
  • -360 meters between the bus 5 stop on Hasting and the Seabus deck (versus ~200 meters between thr Expo line and the Seabus)

  • It takes 4 mn to reach Davie by the Canada line, vs ~10mn per bus

Due to all of the above, we prefer put emphasis on both:

  • A grid oriented local bus network in downtown
  • And a good connection with the rail rapid transit

An emphasis on the quality of the Transfer with the Expo line

short walking connection with the expo line at Stadium station are privileged:
bus 5 uses Beatty street, bus 6 uses the couplet Expo/Pacific

To improve the connectivity of the bus 5 and 6 with the rest of the network:

  • both route 5, and 6 are extended to the north end of Denman, to connect with bus 19, and the North shore buses
4busDavie

A critical gap between the North shore and Pender buses is adressed by the extension of the bus 5 and 6 on the north end of Denman: It also allows a relocation of the Denman#Davie layover to the city owned parking lot at the North end of Denman

  • Both route 5 and 6 are extended to Main#Hasting, to connect with the Hasting and Main street buses (bus #3 and #8 being short turned at the North end of Main street).
  • The bus 19 can preserve a direct connection between the downtown and the Main Corridor.

This proposal has some inconveniences:

  • There is dispersion of service on Beatty and Cambie
  • There is no good connectivity between the local route 5 and 6 in the Yaletown area
  • There is no good connection between bus 17 and bus 6 either (bus 17 is on the Cambie bridge above the Pacific bld)

The one way service on Expo and Pacific is also a drawback, but one can expect some change correcting that in the area with the re purposing of the viaducts

An emphasis on the Routes corridors

Consolidation of bus route is preferred: bus and 6 use both Cambie to achieve connectivity  on the Eastern end of the Downtown Peninsula

Consolidation of bus route is preferred: bus and 6 use both Cambie to achieve connectivity on the Eastern end of the Downtown Peninsula

Local routes are consolidated (instead to be dispersed).

  • Hasting corridor is used for City/Regional transit, while Pender street is used for local service (similarly to georgia vs Robson)
    • Different stop intervals could be used to speed up city service while still offering good accessibility on the Pender street
  • Eastern connection is done using Cambie preventing bus dispersion, and enhancing the attractiveness of the Cambie bus corridor
  • To increase the legibility of the bus network, The Pacific Boulevard is served from one end to another by a single bus line (actually served by C21 West of Yaletown, and C23 East of Yaletown)

      Placing ourselves in a “post viaduct world”, the natural extension of this route is Prior: For this reason we keep this bus On Keefer (as close as Pacific Boulevevard), bus still allowing it to connect with the Skytrain

The Gastown coverage

Nowadays, it is done by the bus 50. The proposed route doesn’t cover gastown anymore, but it could…as well as bus #5 or #6.

Gastown is in fact in the Hasting and Pender bus coverage area. A specific service to increase this coverage can be considered but is not part of the structuring network (as well as any other bus route to provide specific needs.

The bus network, and the Pedestrian street network

The City’s goal for its bus network review is to get rid of the buses on many city streets (and especially Robson Square [3]). Instead of taking the City approach; “decide which street to pedestrianize and let the bus find its way more or less clumsily to serve the rest of the city”; we take the opposite approach: “which streets spring as natural candidate for pedestrianization, to complement and enhance the attractiveness of the transit network?”

The Pedestrianization of some Gastown streets, starting with Water street, could be done at no expense of the bus network. It is obviously not the case of Cambie, or Robson. For the later one, a shared space arrangement based on a European model is a natural solution [2]. Streets making good candidate for pedestrianization are

  • Beatty street, already routinely closed to traffic for Canada Place event, and offering a much better potential than Cambie street (proposed by the City), and still providing direct access to the future AGO site
  • Hamilton and Mainland in Yaletown
  • And potentially others street in Westend like Bute

The network of bus lanes
In this probable priority order, regional route, then city corridor where bus traffic is heavy:

  • Georgia street (North shore buses) should have all times bus lanes
  • Hasting street
  • Main street
  • Burrard street
  • Potentially Cambie street

Routes #5 and #6 (as well as route #19) providing mainly a local service in downtown (short trip distance, often competing with a walk), can be considered as people movers, and as such should have relatively short bus stop interval (~250m): Bus lanes for them could be great but they are not much critical, from a customer perspective:


They could be nevertheless useful to increase the reliability of the routes (in fact one of the principle advantage of a bus lane)


[1] See more especially the the-downtown-bus-review post and the coverage of the 1975 downtown Vancouver bus service vision

[2] Transit as part of the urban fabric

[3] See a recap of the 2012 Oct 15 and 17th events on Robson Square (illustrating an unfortunate contempt of City of Vancouver for surface Transit, as we have noticed here)

Grounded on principle previously exposed, we present here some more concrete ideas of what could look an ideal transit network in downtown. In a top down approach, we naturally ensure that the regional and city transit lines are optimized: that is the main purpose of this post

The regional transit network:

The regional bus network: the extension of the North sore bus route to the Main street Station

The regional bus network: the extension of the North sore bus route to the Main street Station

The Hasting buses (named HSB) such as bus 135 are considered as regional bus, as well as all buses heading to the North Shore (named NSB for the one using the Lions gate Bridge).

A major change is with the North shore buses.
All routes coming are extended to Main terminal:

  • The actual connection with the Granville station is preserved, but patrons will eventually find that Stadium or Main will provide better transfer: that will reduce crowding pressure at the Georgia#Granville stop
  • Georgia street, sometime called a traffic sewage, is where some want hide Transit and its users: it is not without creating challenges.

    Corwding at Georgia#Granville bus stop is reduced by the extension of the north shore buses to Main station

  • It resolves North shore bus layover issues in the downtown core: there is ample space at The Main/Terminal
  • It provides a direct connection with the Main street bus routes (3,8, and 19)
  • it provides a direct connection with the train and intercity buses station.

A potential extension to the future Broadway line station, at Great Northern Way# Fraser, could be doable too


City Bus routes:

the city bus network

the city bus network

A major change on the main street corridor:

Bus #3 and #8 are short-turned at the north end of Main. It is a result of an observation: most of the patron of those routes, transfer onto the Expo line at main terminal, leaving bus #3 and #8 wandering empty in the downtown core. It is also a follow up of a previous Translink recommendation [1].

  • The saving in term of operating cost is tremendous, and it helps to address bus congestion (mainly at bus stop) on the hasting corridor

Bus 19 can preserve a direct connection between the downtown and the Main Corridor.

The route 22 toward the Knight street corridor
In the context of the 2013 Bus service optimization consultation, we came up with a “counter proposal” to improve the bus 22 and C23 route (then proposed to be extended to Terminal Avenue) which has been discussed in comment section of the buzzer blog:

proposed extension of route C23 (in blue) and rerouting of bus 22 (in red) to serve the Terminal avenue area, and provide a good connection with the Expo line

The bus is permantly routed thru terminal avenue (instead of Prior and Gore).

  • it improves the connection to the expo line (for people using its East branch)
    • to avoid a left turn at Main street(preventing to have a bus stop in direct connection with the Expo line), the route 22 is routed thru Columbia and Quebec street.
  • The actual 22 use Pender street, but Hasting could be a superiori choice (direct connection with hasting bus corridor, and closer to Waterfront):
    • Toward it a section of Columbia (North of Pnder) could need to be reverted as a two-way street.

The Bus 17

It is used to provide a North south service East of Granville from Waterfront (bus termini on Cordova). Due to the street layout, Cambie street is the only reasonnable choice:

  • Beatty closer to the Staidum station end up at pender, is often closed to traffic with special event at Canada place.
  • Hamilton and all western choice, are to too far away of the Statdium station, and roverlapping too much with the Granville corridor.

The route 50 case.

This aim of this route is to provide some transit service to Granville island and on the South False Creek slope. That said, the routing of this route make it of little value for too many people:

We redesign this route as a peripheral one, linking Broadway#Granville, Granville Island, Olympic station, Main street station and Main#Hasting:

bus 50 as a peripheral route connecting Main#Hasting to Bradway#Granville via Main station, Olympic station and Granville Island

bus 50 as a peripheral route connecting Main#Hasting to Bradway#Granville via Main station, Olympic station and Granville Island

Among other benefits: Such alignment allows to improve the transit offer in the South East Flase Creek area, and remove one diesel bus route of the Granville Mall.

The inconvenience of this design is the eventual lost of a direct connection between Downtown and Granville island: The implementation of an elevator between granville island and the Granville bridge span could be a good solution, which could be part of the Granville Bridge greenway proposal

The route 15 is then prolonged to downtown, following the alignement of route 17, able to provide a more consistent bus service on the peninsula section of Cambie

The Hasting bus corridor

We include the bus serving Powell in this corridor (essentially route #4). Even with the removal of bus #3 and #8, there is lot of bus service redundancy (#7,#14,#16,#20): The rationalization of it should be the object of a study focusing on this corridor rather than a down town study.

The Burrard bus corridor

At this time, it consists only of bus 22 and 44. If the Broadway subway is designed to terminate at Arbutus, it is expected that this corridor will see much more bus traffic, and a revamped route 44 -using Broadway to connect with the subway line- could see a level of service similar to the actual bus 99.


[1] Vancouver/UBC Area Transit Plan , Translink, July 2005.

…and the Vancouver Canada line case. The remarks apply also to LRT unless specified (another post has been dedicated to buses

In a nutshell, the person per hou per direction capacity a subway line can offer, is

    (capacity of a train) × (number of train per hour).

Like for buses, the capacity of a train is a function of different parameters, mainly person per square meter occupancy standard, and seat arrangement.

At the difference of low floor buses (and LRT), is little “protuberance” (such wheel room) on high floor train, and technical room present in a train cabin rather under floor or on roof, are often the result of a tradeoff:

    train capacity vs easy maintenance

The theorcal capacity of a train, is in fact a direct function of its surface:

    (length of the train) × (width of train).

…and train length, is constrained by the station’s paltforms length, which are typically very expensive to expand.

Train capacity

below is an example of compared train capacity, expressed in term of surface able to accomodate passengers

Train consist Platform length width surface
Vancouver Canada Line 40 3 120
Vancouver Canada Line 50 3 150
Vancouver Skytrain (Expo line) 80 2.65 212
Paris typical subway line 75 2.37 178

For matter of comparison, the theorical Canada line capacity (with 50meters platform) is just 15% lower than on most of the parisian subway lines, such as its line 2 or 5: those lines carry ~100million riders a year.

Behind the seating layout, a train needs in practice several features to effectively reach its theorical capacity. Among them

  • Minimal unusable space between cars (and in cars)
  • Allow passenger to “overflow” from a car to another one

Intercirculation between cars, usually allows that, but again, some interciruclation layout can be more efficient than other:

skytrain


MP89CA_interior On top the skytrain MKII (second generation interior)intercirculation is narrow, impeding free flow movement from car to car, and blocking line of sight at the difference of the Parisian MP89-CA (bottom picture), where the train look like a single “big room”- credit photo top, the Translink’s Buzzer, bottom: wikipedia

Dwelling time and frequency

homogeneous occupancy of a train is also function of the door disposition, but the door layout affect primarily the dwelling time. Short dwelling time is important for a host of reasons, frequency being one of them, and frequency affcet the line capacity:

    interval between train can’t be shorter than the station dwelling time

It is hence important to have as much as possible doors, but also have them wide enough, to allow good in/out flow movement. It is also important to avoid that some doors, slow down the boarding/alighting time because they have to handle more traffic flow:

  • From a boarding viewpoint, where passengers have no apriori on the location of door on platform, the best way to do that, is to have all the doors equidistant (It make also the best use of the platform space)
  • From an alighting perspective, all doors on a car should be equidistant
skytrain

A 68 meters Vancouver skytrain consist, compared to a 75meterParisian MF01 5 cars consist (operating on line 2,5 and 9): the later has lower theorical capacity because it is narrower, but it has greater practical capacity due mainly to a better intercirculation. Furthermore, all doors are equidistant on the MF01 [1], while on the skytrain MK2, people waiting in red zone have to report on a nearby door zone slowing down the boarding. Similarly people standing in red zone aboard the train are too far from a door slowing down the alighting (or conversely limiting the practical capacity of the train by passenger reluctance to stand to far away of a door).

Track issues

A single track, vs a double track, at the end of a line could be used as a cost saving measure, but obviously it affects the freqeuncy of a train line. That said, if the single track portion is short enough, the impact can be relatively minimal.

    Frequency can be be obtained by using a tail track to store trains

The possible frequency is then:

    ((time to travel for and back the single track) + (dwelling time × number of train to be stored) ) / (number of train stored).

As an example, at Richmond Brighouse station, on the Vancouver’s Canada line

  • the tail track past the station can accomodate one stored train [2], and the station another one
  • the travel time between Lansdowne and Brighouse is ~90s and a typical station dwelling time ~20s
2 trains run in one cycle on the single track , by using a tail track behind the termini station

2 trains run in one cycle on the single track , by using a tail track behind the termini station

2 trains can run every 4mn on the Richmond Brighouse branch of the Canada line.

Because one train can run every 4mn on the Airport line, it is possible to get a train every 80s, or 45 trains per hour, on the common trunk (Bridgeport-Waterfront)

Even, with 40meters long train, the Canada line could provides a caapcity of ~15,000pphpd, assuming 330 passengers per train: that is 3 times of the actual capacity. Greater frequency are theorically possible with the introduction of short turn train (avoiding the single track section):

3 trains running in one cycle, one being shorturned before the single track section, 2 using the single track section

3 trains running in one cycle, one being shorturned before the single track section, 2 using the single track section

PS The above numbers for the Canada line, assume the availability of rolling stock, power supply, track signalling, and fast operating switch: All those could need to be upgraded, as well as the stations along the line to handle the corresponding increase in ridership, but it could be no need for heavy civil engineering work/track reconfigutation toward a capacity increase of 15,000+ pphd


[1] Materiel roulant MF2000, seance 12/12/2000, Conseil d’administration du STIF

[2] Addressing Canada Line capacity questions, Translink, June 3, 2010.

We have generally welcomed the last 2 rounds of service optimization, since they address bus route network structural deficiencies and this year makes no exception:
Among proposed change the 404 rerouting from Ladner exchange to Riverport is something we have previously called for:

The bus 49

It is important that TransLink rationalizes its bus network to provide value for both the taxpayer and the transit user, as well as provide a sound foundation for sustainable growth. The most obvious inefficiencies, are the route diversions serving specifc needs- An issue already well identified in the 1975 Downtown Vancouver bus review [2]- since a diversion means a less attractive service for most of the travellers.

A bus route detour may seem benign on a relatively low frequency route but it introduces inefficiencies which compound as transit ridership grows. It is notoriously the case of the bus 49 diversion at Champlain Height, which we have already pointed to the Translink commission

current_bus_49

Such a diversion could have been overlooked decades ago, but is an unsustainable in 2014, with UBC, a Canada Line connection and Metrotown as major destinations along this route:

The Champlain Heights detour is an unnecessary inconvenience for 95% of route 49’s 20,000 weekday riders. It adds 4 to 5 minutes to each of the approximately 250 daily bus trips, which costs $500,000 annually (more than the cost to operate all the Ladner/South Delta community shuttles routes C84, C86 C87 C88 and C89 combined)[1]. This figure will only get worse over time.

Addressing it, not only improve the Translink financial sheet, but it also dramatically improve the bus service along the 49th avenue:

The proposed new bus 49 route by Translink saves 4 to 5 mn on each of the 250 daily runs done by the bus 49

The proposed new bus 49 route by Translink saves 4 to 5 mn on each of the 250 daily runs done by the bus 49

Understandably, some residents affected by the change have voiced their concerns [3]. Any routing change affects some customers and their concerns need to be considered. In the route 49 case, virtually all Champlain Heights’ residents will stay within 500 metres of a bus stop (either rerouted bus 49 or bus 26, both being among the 20% most frequent bus routes).

A reworking of the bus 26 could be also possible along lines below providing better connections to the rest of the network and service/jobs than the actual one:

A bus Joyce/Metrotown could improve the accessibility of the Champlain Heights thru the rest of the network, service and jobs compared to the current route (29th Ave Skytrain station- Joyce)

…But eventually the development of the East Fraser lands area calls for a more drastic review of the bus routes in this area, so it seems wise to not touch the route 26 for the time being (since it is a prime candidate to be extended to the East Fraser Lands)

The saving provided by the ending of the 49 diversion could easily pay for a community shuttle linking champlain mall to Metrotown thru 54th avenue.

  • ~40 daily shuttle runs could end up to cost ~$125,000 annually, assuming a $60/h shuttle operating cost [1]

but one could reasonnably question: Is it the best use of the saving Translink can do, when so many other areas are severed of even basic Translink service?

In any case, there is no lack of options to mitigate the lost of a direct 49 access for some people, and potential inconveniences are largely outweighted by the general service improvment.

The Vancouver council position

It is sad, but not overly surprising that the Vancouver council seems to be prepared to pass on March 11th, a motion initiated by Geoff Meggs, disregarding the benefit of the proposed 49 rationalization for the overwhelming majority of transit user, to focus only on a so called “service cut” in the Champlain Height, to oppose to the the improvment of the route 49.

One will notice, that so doing, the Vancouver council is dismissing the transit user value of time, and its contribution for the region’s economy (a viewpoint rightfully denounced by Gordon Price)…Do they adopt the same perspective when it is time to argue for a Broadway subway?

In the context of a looming transit funding referendum, it is extremely important that TransLink addresses its network inefficiencies, especially when they impede greater benefits for most of the transit users, and reduce the transit value of our tax dollars… and thought one could expect tthat its efforts could receive full support froom the concerned municipalities, it is also important that Vancouver doesn’t receive a favor treatment.


[1] Bus service performance review, Translink 2013

[2] The Downtown Vancouver Bus Service vision in 1975

[3] Bus service cut worries Champlain seniors,Sandra Thomas, Vancouver Courier, February 25th, 2014


Since mid 2012, Translink and the city of Vancouver have been working on a Downtown bus service review, with public open houses held on June 2012. Below is our take on it:

It is no secret, that the purpose of the exercise, done under the impulse of the city of Vancouver, is to clear many areas of the city from transit, and more notoriously Robson square. As such the public has been presented with a set of constraints:

The constraint set for the Downtown bus Public consultation

The constraint set for the
Downtown bus review Public consultation

The consultation was not presented necessarily in the best terms possible – we could have liked a brief historic of the downtown transit network, and having the staff seeking feedback on a set of considered principles to design the transit network [2].

In light of it, and especially the previous consultation on the Block 51, the Downtown bus service review consultation Summary [6] is a very welcome surprise:

  • some geometric principles are spelled

    • “Routes should be designed to be simple, direct, and easy to understand”
  • More importantly, the concern on the impact of street closures to bus, especially Robson square, seems properly recorded, as well as a potential solution

    • “The Robson closure does nothing to better city culture and is disruptive for bus routes”


      “I approve the City’s initiatives for public spaces (eg. the 800-block of Robson) but this should not force transit to detour, there can be closures for private cars and trucks but let transit buses/trolley buses through, similar to great plazas in Europe.”

Timeless geometric principles as already stated in [2] (as we have seen here, and well worded on the Jarret Walker’s blog and book) appear as uncontournable.

Not surprisingly, the summary teach us, that in downtown, trips demand are from everywhere to anywhere…

Origin destination pair in the downtown peninsula exhibit a great entropy - nevertheless some major transit corridor appears

Origin destination pair in the downtown peninsula exhibit a great entropy – nevertheless some major transit corridor appears

Trying to single out some destinations to be served, such as a future art gallery, is somewhat self-defeating. The popular destination of today, was not the one of yesterday, and will be not necessarily the one of tomorrow. What is important is to be able to provide a network which is time resilient:

  • It is a “mobility” network, around which the city is structuring itself rather than the reverse

That leads to the following issues, from the most important to the least

Bus coverage

One principle in designing an efficient and resilient bus network, is to maximize the coverage while minimizing the number of bus lines, and still obeying to a core geometric principle: direct and consistent routing – that is a straight line (or following the street grid orientation). For the Downtown peninsnula, assuming an accepted ~1/4 mile walk to a bus stop, the probably most optimized configuration can be done using 3 main transit corridors as illustrated below

The yellow strips, representing bus corridor and their catchement area, are lay down to provide the the most efficient bus coverage in Dowtown. Red arrows represents necessary connectivity between bus corridor

One will quickly recognize the route 5/6 as structuring the Westend coverage in a very optimal way: It explains the resilience of those routes structuring the Westend since its very early development and still doing it:

The WestEnd development plan is widely based on the actual bus route 5/6 anchoring the high density and retail/commercial development

The WestEnd development plan is widely based on the actual bus route 5/6 anchoring the high density and retail/commercial development

Moving one bus route from one street to another one, could seem to be a minor change, but in fact it can affect dramatically the coverage…either by introducing gaps or redundancis in the transit coverage, all severly affecting the network efficiency. In the context of the current Westend development, consequence can be much more dire.

Connectivity

A perfect grid as suggested above should allow to make any local trips with no more than one connection.

Our public transportation network is also a hierarchized one:

  • “local bus” routes aiming to provide transportation option in downtown, such as route #5
  • “city bus” routes, that is the one connecting the downtown to other part of Vancouver, such as route #14
  • “regional transit” routes where lies the skytrain network, sea-bus but also bus route such as #250 or #135

To keep reasonable the number of transfers for people coming from outside Downton, it is particularly important to have all “structuring” downtown network lines connecting to the regional network:

Vancouver regional transit network in its Downtown

City routes are not represented, but can be considered as part of the “structuring” downtown network (that is particularly obvious in the case of route #19 serving Stanley park)

bus-seat supply

Specific bus route could be overloaded, but in some key downtown corridors (mainly Hasting and Granville), there is an over-all over supply of bus-seat (over-supply on some bus routes is not compensating under supply on others)- a typical problem in urban cores we have already encountered, in a more acute form, in Sydney, Australia


buses_Granville there is excees of capacity on the Hasting corridor west of Main – credit photo (1). Simialr observation can be drawn on Granville Mall – crdit photo (3)

It could be no easy answer to this problem, but one will notice that one rationalization idea not implemented was the the discontinuation of bus route #3 west of Main [8]. A similar conclusion could be draw for bus 8.

The fact that the route #3 and #8 use 60ft artics trolley bus (in short supply), reinforce the case for route shortening, freeing bus capacity where it is more needed

Urban integration
Buses congestion, leading to a bus wall, as seen above on Granville, creates its own urban integration issue:

It obviously affect the pedestrian experience on this mall, by creating both a constant physical and visual barrier.

The issue could be complex to address on Granville Mall. However some other urban issues can be more readily addressed:


bus_stop_queue_Georgia top: bus laying over at Davie and Denman – credit photo (4). Bottom bus line-up on Georgia street

The bus lay-over at Denman#Davie creates an uninvitating “pedestrian tunnel” whereas, sidewalk activity could thrive, considering the view, sun exposition, and immediate proximity to the Beaches.

We have already discussed on a relocation of this lay-over, in a critic of Denman street, which is underlining the network issue this lay-over also creates

Transit is very Vancouver centric: thought numerous bus route to North shore run on Georgia, there is no direct connection of them with the Westend. furthermore bus 5/6 make a time point at Davie and Denman making the Northshore<-> Davie area transit option less than appealing (map credit - Translink)

At the end, a succesful transit network, means a good patronage, which also creates its own issue, as we can regularly witness on Georgia street. Such problem should be addressed.

The additional constraints or Robson square

Cnnsidering the above issues, one can see emerging the rough lines of what could be an ideal transit network…but adding additional constraint in the form of arbitrary “no bus” zone could be wreaking havoc on it.

When come Pedestrian streets, they should be designed as a complement to the city transportation system, not as an impediment to it, and that is also a reason making their success…or failure otherwise [7]. Fortunately some solutions, especially the ones considering transit as part of the urban fabric, achieve exactly that

Note:One will find a summary of a city conversation on the Robson square issue, on the Stephen Rees blog.


[1] Georgia Straight

[2] We mainly think of some geometric principles. on the example of those clearly enounced in a the 1975 Downtown Vancouver Bus Service vision, as seen in a previous post. Translink has some material illustrating the importance of some, as discussed by Jarret Walker

[3] “The TTC page” website

[4] Stephen Rees

[5] Vancouver/UBC Area Transit Plan , Translink, July 2005.

[6] Downtown Vancouver Local Bus Service Review: Phase 1 Consultation Summary, Translink and City of Vancouver, 2013

[7] Jarret Walker uses the “bus as pedestrian fountain” metaphor to convey the importance of transit to the success of a pedestrian area.

[8] See [5]. Note: the shortening of the route #3 has been briefly implemented apparently in 2006-2007 but abandoned in 2008 with the introduction of artics trolley on the route 3.

the Kitsilano bike freeway

October 30, 2013

Some critics of the park board plan [1] have called the infamously bike path approved by the park board, a “bike freeway”. Is it an “over the top” rethoric”?

A freeway definition:

freeway
/ˈfriːweɪ/
nounN. AMER.
dual-carriageway, especially one with controlled access.

The park board plan for the bike lane:
kitsBikeLanePicnicArea

The dual carriageway is there, albeit on a short section, where downhill bikes can accumulate lot of speed (the reason for the “freeway”?). That is a point for the bike freeway qualification. Unfortunately it is also at the most convoited picnic area site…If the project proceeds ahead, picnickers will be separated from the shore by no less than 3 rows of paths…The bike path takes more space than we have initialed thought


Notice, that the gradient of the slope is roughly similar to the one on McNicoll, but the elevation difference, 6m, is 50% greater than between arbutus and Maple, along Mc Nicoll (4m). That increases the risk of speedy cyclists, and potential safety hazard


Notice also, that from a cycling effort perspective, it makes little sense, to go down to the parking lot from Arbutus (2m elevation change), to have a longer hill.

The route above is extracted from the RFP No. PS20130532, providing detailled engineering plans: this finding call for a recap of the Kits beach bike lane saga


  • On october 7th, the Park board approves a bike lane bisecting Kistilano beach and Hadden parks, the approved report [1] mentions that benches need to be relocated, and fences erected around the playground area (see more here)
  • On october 14th, thanks to some chalk lines materializing the approved bike route alignment, park users and residents discover the existence of the project. That creates an outrage in the community, Howard Kesley seems to emerge as a leader, and seems to be behind @savekitsbeach and the associated facebook page (Raymond Tomlin, is also following this on his blog Vanramblings)
  • On october 15th, Park board commissioner Aaron Jasper explains it is a “done deal”, and there is no intention to consult the public on it [3]
  • On october 16th, The city of Vancouver issues the request for proposal PS20130532, with detailled engineering plan – specifying at least 5 memorial benches to be relocated, in addition of picnic tables, and the fencing of the playground area. the deadline is November 5th
  • On october 18th, Park board chair Sarah Blyth issues a media release [2] qualifying as “untrue rumour” the above and stating that the “White chalk lines outlining a wide route through the Park” as not in any way reflect the route to be taken”. The park board staff said otherwise the day before. She goes as far as to say that “The final route has not been determined”, and advisory group will be established to work on the final design of the route. Some media, like the Georgia Straight, reprint the media releases in extenso without pointing any contradictions
  • On october 20th, a town hall meeting organized by savekitsbeach is held at the Kitsilano boat house. NPA park board commissioners Melissa De Genova and John Coupar, NPA city Cuuncillor George Affleck and Vision park board commissioner Constance Barnes are attending. Ms Barnes then recognizes than the lack of public consultation was a mistake, explained the the park board has been misleaded by its staff, and agreed to correct that…
  • On october 22th, Park board chair Sarah Blyth and commissioner Constance Barnes agree finally to qualify the attendance to the sunday town hall meeting, as a “mob of retiree loitering around the Boathouse” and “enjoying obsolete pasttime…as picnicking” [4].
  • On october 28th, NPA Park board John Coupar and Melissa De Genova issued a motion calling for Special Meeting on Kits Beach Park, to be held on Novemebr 4th, 2013, 6pm

In principle, After all the damages inflicted to the public trust, by more noticeabily park board commissioners Barnes and Blyth, the park board, recognizing it has been off track, should be eager to regain this trust and approves the NPA motion…and finally forms the promised advisory committee….

…let see how gonna unfold all this….


[1] Seaside Greenway Improvements,Vancouver Park Board, Oct 1st, 2013

[2] Park Board statement on Hadden and Kitsilano Beach Bike Path – Next Steps, Sarah Blyth, October 18th, 2013

[3] Kits Beach bike path a done deal, Sandra Thomas, Vancouver Courier – October 15, 2013

[4] See various tweet from the concerned indviduals: as here and there for Constance Barnes. Sarah Blyth did the same.

The bike lane vs the park

October 16, 2013

…Or should a bike lane be built at any price…

The Vancouver park board, seems to believe that the public consulation on the Cornwall-Point Grey bike lane, makes a similar public engagement redundant when comes the time to design a seaside bikelane at Kitsilano Beach. Instead, an intercept survey was chosen: the following question was asked to 370 “park users” :

Our goal is to make walking and cycling in and through the parks safer, more convenient, and more comfortable – without compromising the many ways, people use the park. Do you support this goal?

95% naturally supported this laudable goal…but does that give license to the park board to aprove anything, as long as it is called a bike lane, as it has done on October 7th by approving a $2.2 million path bisecting the Kitsilano park?

The need for a bike lane

There is no question that Kitsilano park is very well used: bikes and pedestrians cohabitation on the current seaside path is problematic. In an effort to reduce conflicts, cyclists are asked to dismount on the stretch along the beach itself on busy days… Some cyclists comply….

There is no question either that cyclists are here overwhelmingly on a leisure trip, looking at a seaside experience:

  • the fact that a route thru Kits point is unconvenient to commuter cyclist is a reason why it has not been pursued by the Cornwall-Point Grey team [2]
  • The selected route, York, didn’t remove the need to improve cycling facilities for recreational user looking at a seaside experience.

This was recognized in the Cornwall-Point Grey consultation, deferring improvment to the existing seaside greenway between Balsam and Burrard to further consultation with park users [2]….

Instead of “improvments” to the existing path, the park board is preferring to build a new one, albeit a reasonnable option…but which is proceeding without consultation:

the planned bike route

the planned bike route

…That is the most detailled map provided by the Park board staff [1]….it was considered good enough by the Vancouver park board to approve the project on October 7,2013.

The alignment raises several questions:

  • it doesn’t connect in any meaningful way with the York Avenue bike lane
    • That could be done at Balsam street on the West side, but more importantly at either Yew street or Arbutus street on the East side
  • it seems to multiply the zone of conflicts rather than to reduce them between the foot of Yew street and the Boathouse restaurant (this part of the park is heavily used by sun bathers)
  • Among many safety hazards, cyclists will eventually have to deal with backing trucks.

  • In other part of the park, it “sterilizes” large swath of the park, that is bisecting the park in such way that some part become practically unsuable as illustrated below -where a ~10 meter wide strip is made unavailable for usual park use:

the 3.5meter wide bike lane cut accross the park…Notice the swath of grass on the right becomes practically not useable by park users

The bike lane could have been put on Arbutus street, a neighborood street in Kits point, but apparently the park board has considered the 66feet wide street too narrow for adding a bike lane:

Arbutus street at Kits point: the 66 feet wide neighborood street s apparently too narrow to accomodate a bike lane

Arbutus street at Kits point: the 66 feet wide neighborood street s apparently too narrow to accomodate a bike lane

A similar observation could be done at Hadden park, where cyclist are already separated of the sea by the Maritime musseum, and where a bike path on Ogden avenue could not compromise the seaside experience either:

Ogden avenue along hadden park, offer already  a great cycling experienc which just need to be connected with the rest of the network

Ogden avenue along hadden park, offer already a great cycling experienc which just need to be connected with the rest of the network

In both case, it requests to suppress some parking spots. Something the park board seems wary to do, in fact the report mentions [1]:

    The parking lot at the foot of McNicholl Street will be reduced but leave twenty spots, including ten with waterfront views. Impact on parking revenues is considered to be negligible.

Should we be relieved that no parking spot with water front view has been endangered by the bike lane?

Beyond the park board, here lies the problem of the party ruling Vancouver: As we have noticed before, their bike lanes agenda, is a single and narrow minded one…it is one consisting of laying down bike lanes at the exclusion of any other considerations and for that, it follows the path of least resistance, instead to make clear choice:

  • Reallocating space for cyclits at the expense of the car, and not other vulnerable users

Everything needs to give way to the bike lane.

The connection between Hadden park (Ogdon Avenue) and Kitsilano beach (Arbutus) should have been open to discussion: Does a bend to follow as close as possible the shoreline (like done in the proposal) is really necessary?

  • One should weight the benefits of a brief moment of extra scenery for cyclists against the costs of eliminating prime space for picnickers, and constructing a longer and convoluted route (eventually preventing cyclists to spread out further west

Thought that the usual suspects will be against the kitsilano bike lane for the sake to be against a bike lane, they will feel conforted in their battle by being joined by people coming of a quarter which should haven’t been bothered: the defensors of our parks….

One doesn’t need to be against bike lanes, to recognize, once again, tha lack of judgement from the Vancouver park board: Eventually due to lack of proper consultation, this bike lane suffering of lack of though is ill conceived (*).

We already hear the unconditional supporters of bike lanes pointing at the successfully used bike lane to prove us wrong…Exactly same logic could apply whether the park board had elected to build a parking lot instead of a bike lane.

(*) To be sure it is a done deal suffering no discussion [3]


[1] Seaside Greenway Improvements,Vancouver Park Board, Oct 1st, 2013

[2] Seaside Greenway Completion and York Bikeway (Phase 1 of Point Grey-Cornwall Active Transportation Corridor),General Manager of Engineering Services, City of Vancouver, July 16, 2013

[3] Kits Beach bike path a done deal, Sandra Thomas, Vancouver Courier – October 15, 2013

Edited after Stephen Rees comment
At the 1995 Fall

  • Up to 1987, the 9 was the only cross-town service along Broadway. and started to have runs to UBC only after University Bld got Trolley wires in 1988.
  • Before, 1987, UBC was reached from the Broadway corridor by the bus 10 (nowadays route 14), which had been extended to UBC in fall 1968 (then it was working in combination with the Hasting express bus)
  • With the advent of the Expo line in 1986, BC transit will start an express service from Commercial (now Commercial-Broadway) to UBC, in fall 87, numbered 81 the first year, then 31:
    • The bus 31, was a typical rush hour only express service with pick up only at all local bus stop East of Oak, for the West bound direction (and drop off only for the east bound), then non stop to UBC.

1996, Introduction of the 99 B line service on the Fall

The original B line Logo – credit flikr user: mag3737

It is the first time Broadway has an uninterrupted service from Boundary to UBC, and service extendining on Lougheed Hwy up to Lougheed.

      The preliminary service is weekday only, but is running all day long (without evening serice), and receives a special branding: the “Bee Line” logo.

      express route 31 is discontinued

      The line will reach the UBC loop after enlargment of it, in the spring 1997. The Clark stop will be added at the same time

      Sasamat is added in the Fall 1997

The service is an instant success, and the offer needs to be reinforced as soon as Nov 1996, where peak morning frequency is already at 4mn between Commercial and UBC [2]

.

1998: Full deployment in the fall

The bus b8025, in its original B line livery.

The bus b8025, in its original B line livery. The 99B route featured Low floor buses which were a novelty in 98 in Vancouver. the special livery was also new and came unspoiled by advertising. buses were coming with a bike rack what was also new – This bus (b8025) was part of a second order to face increased demand) credit photo Peter MacLaughlin, 2000

A new fleet of 21 low-floor articulated buses with a distinctive B-Line paint scheme and bike rack was deployed. All that were novelties on the Vancouver bus system in 1998. Service is extended on week-end and evening [2]. The Brentwood-Boundary loop route (109) is then discontinued.

The ridership increased by 20%, prompting an order for 5 additional buses

Bus bulges are installed at the Sasamat bus stop, in May/June 1998 [5], as a demonstration project: Besides it, the 99B line never benefited of any BRT like fixed infrasrtucture

2002 and after: the SkytrainMillenium line days

  • The Skytrain line replaces the B line east of Commercial in 2002
  • In 2003, Translink introduces non stop bus between COmmercial and UBC (99 Special) to handle additioan demand generated by the introduction of the U-Pass
    • The students, continued to board the first 99 showing up, rather than waiting for the 99 Special, which was then not alleviating crowding. the 99 special service has been discontinued with the introduction of the route 84:
  • In Jan 2006, the opening of the VCC-Clark station allows the opening of a new route from it to UBC (#84), supposed to relieve crowding on the Broadway corridor
  • Fraser, and Arbutus stop are added in 2009
Transit service along the Broadway corridor

Broadway99Broadway10 Transit service along the Broadway corridor, in 1995, 1999 and 2010

Ridership evolution

year daily ridership
Oct 1997 8,500 [2]
Nov 1997 10,000 [2]
1998 16,000 (*) [7]
1999 20,000 [7]
2002 26,000 [7]
2007 45,000 [8]
2011 54,350 [9]

(*) The Original BC Transit estimate was 12,000 [2]

The line is extremely busy, with long line up before boarding at several stop, as Commercial pictured here. People line-up on 3 queues (one per door).

The line is extremely busy, with long line up before boarding at several stops, as Commercial WB pictured here. People line-up on 3 queues (one per door) – credit photo Vancotybuzz

Some reasons for the success.

It is worth to notice a great emphasis on the marketing side, and its technical limitation [6] :

  • A distinctive product:
    • The B line branding is applied to any aspect of the bus service: bus, bus-stop, map and schedule
      It is worth to mention that the bee line logo copyright has been challenged by an individual: the controversy did some stride in the mediaa, bringing exposure to the product itself
      The buses looking “different” don’t get unnoticed by drivers.
      The line has his dedicated bus stop
      The accessible low floor buses has been a disruptive point in the industry (same has occured with trams in the 90′s)

But one, must not forget the “geometry” fundamental of the line:

  • Where it was ~37 bus stop between Commercial and Alma (route 9), the 99B was offering only 6 (now 8) along the same 8.5km segment.
    • The time gain is especially consequent (up to 40% time gain)
  • The strong Central broadway anchor (before not directly accessible from the Lougheed corridor
  • At the exception of Allison and Heather (Vancouver General Hospital), All stop connect with other network bus lines:
    • The B line, especially in its eastern part (pre millenium line), is conceived as to be feeded by local buses.
      The B line runs on as much as of the entire corridor broadway-Lougheed, making it very legible
      In practice service east of Commercial was relatively limited, but people coming from the Lougheed corridor, was able to board on a fast service offering limited stop service in Vancouver

The route 44 (limited stop from down town to UBC), having replaced the express route 85 (local on the downtown peninsula, then non stop up to UBC) participate from the same philosophical approach as the 99B.

The 98B line
The line opened on August 7, 2001, after a 4 1/2 month transit strike

At the time of the introduction of the 98B, the B line logo has changed, and Translink color are blue and yellow (instead of red and blue, former BC transit color)


The 98B line will capitalize on all the 99B lessons, but will add some BRT like features:

  • Dedicated Right of Way (number 3 road in Richmond), and bus lanes in Vancouver (Marpole)
  • Specially designed bus shelter, with real time information system
  • premeption of traffic signal (at least in Richmond)
    • The system was originally deployed to accelreate fire department response: it was not clear it was very efficient for transit operations

It is possible that Translink, could have liked to discontinue all direct services from Richmond, to having them feeding the 98B line…In fact rush hour direct services has been preserved, but the 98B line replaced a rather confusing array of bus routes (401, 403, 406 and 407) with a legible, direct, and frequent service, between Vancouver and Richmond Center. The line has been discountinued in fall 2010, as being replaced by the Canada line


[1] The Buzzer, BC Transit 1987 Aug 28

[2] The Buzzer, BC Transit 1996 Nov 29

[3] The Buzzer, BC Transit, 1998 Aug, 21

[5] TCRP Program report 65: Evaluation of Bus Bulbs, National Academy press, Washington D.C., 2001

[6] Vancouver’s BLine Experience, Jeffrey Busby, TRB Annual Meeting 13 January 2013.

[7] TCRP report 90: Bus Rapid Transit Volume 1: Case Studies ( Annex B Bus Rapid TransitVancouver British Columbia, Translink #98 and #99 B lines), National Academy press, Washington D.C., 2003

[8] “Planning of Vancouver’s Transit Network with an Operations-Based Model“, Ian Fisher, May 1 2009, Translink

[9] “Bus System Performance Review”. May 31, 2012 – Translink

A brief historical context is available here

The war on buses is continuing.

The City of Vancouver is losing no occasion to attack the downtown bus system:

the North Plaza site analysis as presented in the open house material

Even when a design doesn’t need to threat transit, City of Vancouver can’t refrain to do so:
The site analysis, while showing permanent bus stops on Burrard, and temporary ones on Howe, fails to show a single bus stop on either Robson or Granville. Also surprising is the lack of mention of any major transit corridors in the vicinity (Granville is not considered as such!).

That could be due more to ignorance of the site and unfamiliarity of the bus network by the design team, than malevolent intentions. Nevertheless, the result is still a deceptive material, raising questions on the openness and good faith of the city of Vancouver in regard of the Down Town bus service review.

(why go thru the exercise, when it is all decided as eventually suggested on the left?)

Passing the above provocation, which eventually left little ambiguities on the city intentions if it was any doubts left after the disastrous “block 51 consultation” in fall 2012 [1], let’s have a look at the proposed designs


Since the VAG is poised to move to Larwill park (Cambie#Georgia), in a relatively near future, the purpose of the exercise is a bit futile, but as the underground vault below the square is leaking: work on the plaza needs to happen as soon as possible. That somewhat can explain the relatively low profile adopted (e.g. no design competition) for one of the most important place in Vancouver, which, potentially temporary, facelift is budgeted at $3 millions. 3 options are presented to the public:

Plalo Ring


PlaloRing2PlaloRing3 A Plalo Ring, transforming the square as a night club at night? May be for a Nuit blanche event, but permanently?

The focal point of the square is obviously the Rattenbury building, and any design should be driven at making the best of this heritage building. This Plalod ring, not only ignoring the Rattenbury building, but also diminishing it, is probably out of place on the North Plaza. One could also infer, it could create some problem for some events. (lighting issue, and sound reverberation).

The fact that it is considered by the design team, and is a favorite with the public [2] is eventually one reason of despair of the Vancouver culural and urban scene:

Someday, they will propose to demolish the Rattensbury building to increase the size of the north Plaza![4]

Active edge

Some "edge" on the side of the square?

Some “edge” on the side of the square?

The goal of it is unclear: bring some intimacy to the square?… square being surrounded by traffic sewages on 3 of its sides, that looks:

  • A loosing battle
  • and an unnecessary one, since the spaces north of Robson street fulfill this need

All those “edges” seriously limit the versatility of the place, think the Vancouver Sun Run:

  • The Georgia side
  • The fountain along Georgia, seems more inspired by the current “centennial fountain” than anything else. As much as the current fountain, it creates a psychological barrier to the Rattenbury building access. It is worth to note, that a fountain used to sit along Georgia (and is now along Hornby: it is also surprisingly misisng of the site inventory). Why not put restore the historic fountain in its original location?

  • The Howe side
  • The site inventory notice a bus stop at the foot of Howe street, so this design turns its back on Howe, and erect a “wall” there, preventing the transit users to be part of the square life…enough is said!

    Wet

    the water mirror

    the water mirror – for bottom photos, credit (3)

    May be the rendering is not making justice to the design, which in some sort is reverberating an early Erickson concept for the square: it doesn’t seem to encouter a great public adhesion [2], but it is by far the best option among the proposed ones:

    • It is the most able to address the formalism and ceremonial aspect of the square
    • while offering a versatility of use, and still not offering an empty place

    That is the purpose of such a mirror in Bordeaux, and more recently Place de la Republique, Paris, a huge “demonstrating” square, as we have seen before, that said:

    • Does the water mirror, need to cover all the square?
    • probably not, since it hinders other spontaneous activities

    • Does the water mirror, is a necessary feature on the North Plaza?
    • may be, may be not: the square is somewhat small, and a proper surface treatment and other urban furnishings, can be enough, to both compliment the building, and enlivening the square.

    Place de la Republique, Paris: a skateboard ledge? a speaker corner? a mattress? Basic, moveable and still permanent furnishing, can gather many spontaenous uses, enlivening  the square at low cost.

    Place de la Republique, Paris: a skateboard ledge? a speaker corner? a mattress? Basic, moveable furnishing, can gather many spontaenous uses, enlivening the square at low cost.

    And The red carpet

    All presented proposals seem to be relatively weak, focusing more at addressing the need of a 3 days Jazz festival, rather than addressing the place itself. As such they are relatively uninspiring, especially when compared to the “red carpet” as presented by Hapa collaborative, at the “Where’s the square?”, VPSN design competition.

    Vancouver Red Carpet – Hapa Collaborative – entry of the 2009 VSPN Where’s the Square Competition

    The surface treatment

    All design are based on “Hard landscaping” landscaping because it is “more durable and long lasting”: If Granville mall, where the city believes an outstanding job has been done, is an indication, one should not hold his breath on it. Since, the setting could be temporary, the city could be well inspired to use a compacted fine gravel surface, which has the merit to be much cheaper than a good quality hard surface, and easy to recycle, whenever a new arrangment of the square is required by a different use of the Rattenbury building.

    Like many squares in France, Place Bellecour, Lyon, has a compacted surface, able to accomodate a great range of venues

    Like many square in France, Place Bellecour, Lyon, has a compacted surface, able to accomodate a great range of venue.


    And why not also keep the space as a blank page?… pretty much like Place Bellecour in Lyon, France, which Viva, or other group could program (instead of organizing a blockade on bus routes), and revisit our options when we will have more clarity on the future use of the Rattenbury building?


    [1] see “block 51” public consultation, which has left a sour taste with many observers, as we have already noticed here and there. In despite of all evidences, VPSN, a group advocating for aggressive pedestrianism and co-organizeer of the block 51 consultation, unsurprinsingly and sadly, still believe it was a good consultation.

    [2] According to a poll by Vancity buzz (3 stunning design revealed for new Vancouver art Gallery North Plaza, Kenneth Chan, VancityBuzz, Oct 1st, 2013), 65& of its polled prefer the “plalo Ring”, while 20% prefer the “wet” concept, with 8% liking the “active edge” one.

    [3] flickr user hisgett

    [4] This is paraphrasing Victor Hugo, whose famously said, “somedays, they will destroy the cathedral Notre Dame, to increase its parvis”, about the Haussmann work in Paris

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