October 7, 2013
This post was previously published on the Frances Bula’s blog, on July 12, 2013
It all started with a Trojan horse: The 2010 Olympic games. Granville and Robson have been closed to all traffic. Granville had been closed before due to the Canada line construction, and bus were using dedicated lane on the couplet Howe/Seymour.
We all liked the pedestrian atmosphere and gathered at Robson#Granville (thought city hall, have planed Robson square as the centre for celebration)….but it is not because you have enjoyed your last family reunion, that you must organize your living room as if it was happening every day.
The Olympic games gone, the buses got back their historic routes…short respite…
A war on bus was brewing:
Pedestrian only Granville was considered good, so buses are now routinely demanded to go back on Howe/Seymour which have lost their bus lanes in the interim!
When Hornby received its cycle track, The city ostensibly relocated its curb side parking along Howe: The city made a point to not build a cycle track at the expense of parking: the bus lanes are the sacrificed goats
Granville buses surrendered; stoned by a blitzkrieg attack; the real battlefield is obviously Robson square:
It is a war, and going to war requires an army: The purpose of Viva Vancouver is to occupy the battlefield, which can’t sustain itself, without artificial activation, as has been demonstrated last fall (an attempt to force definitive closure without consultation?).
Because it is a war, there is no mercy for the adversary: In despite of seasonal closure for more than 3 years. Not a single improvement has been brought to the Robson bus on its circuitous detour: The unnecessary hook via Smythe, to turn left turn on Burrard, from Robson, could have been easily fixed by now… whether City hall, was less contemptuous of the bus riders…
At best, bus riders are not considered differently from car drivers by both city Hall and, unfortunately the VPSN, an advocacy group for aggressive pedestrianization of Robson square (both 2012 City hall public consultation on Robson square, which in fact has been organized by the VPSN, and the 2011 VPSN “petitions”, made sure it was not possible to differentiate buses of general traffic)
Obviously, on the margin of the main battlefields, skirmishes happen routinely, often under the disguise of good intentions:
- A 30km/h speed limit on Hasting fine!… but without appropriate street design, it is widely ignored…but bus driver dutifully slow down…
- A cycle track on Union, Great!…nearby businesses have been promised that parking space will be relocated on Main…in the way of the buses…
Since it is summer, many readers, like the host of this blog, will be visiting Europe. They will eventually witness there that transit usually receives consideration and that an aggressive pedestrianism agenda is a 70′s concept, which is outmoded by shared spaces, where sustainable transportation mode, including transit, mingle with pedestrians, and naturally activate the places they serve.
They will also discover that it is not by erecting a blockade, as nice and attractive it can be, on a bus route that one will reduce car dependency…and still, it is exactly what Vancouver city hall is currently doing…
August 29, 2013
Only one week-end before back to school: it is time to draw some conclusions when memory are still fresh on the Viva Vancouver 2013 season
Judging the Viva programming is certainly a question of view point:
Some minor projects here and there, like the park-lets or the public pianos, are certainly positive actions for our public spaces, but the Viva signature projects will be on Robson square and Granville street. It is the focus on in this post
For some, the Viva 2013 program will be considered as a tremendous success:
- Closing Granville Mall to bus, for the sake to provide space to a for profit car company subsidiary, is a noticeable achievement
For others, it will be considered simply as disappointing, if not a failure:
This Year flagship installation, Corduroy Road at Robson square, was providing some seating using warm material, bringing the street partially at level with the sidewalk. Alas, as noticed before by Stephen Rees, it never get used much more than a glorified foodcourt, and beside lunch time, the place was looking too empty to be attractive :
- The installation itself, providing little interactivity, at the difference of the very popular 2012 PopRock, or the 2011 Picnurbia, could be at cause.
- The fact that both side of the 700 block of Robson street are going under renovation, was not helping either
But more probably, the “Olympic atmosphere” memories which people could have been looking at when wandering on the Vancouver street in the previous summers is simply fading, and the interest for the programming of our public spaces is disappearing. More simply, there is not enough pedestrian traffic to “fill-up” the offered space, which is too big considering the pedestrian traffic .
That is a disappointment. A particularly sunny summer makes it even bitter.
It becomes a significant failure, when the goal is to demonstrate the viability of a year round closure, and in despite of a generous funding, Viva was not even able to meaningfully program the space it seized, for the 2 most favourable months of the year: Presenting a “car2go” booth as a way to program our public space, has turned the experience into a farce, to not say a full scale fiasco.
The conclusion on the viability of a permanent Robson square closure should be obvious, and the last year experiment- keeping Robson square pedestrian only during the fall 2012- should have given hints:
Where are the people?
As we have mentioned before, the Vancouver geography of public spaces has changed with the introduction of the Canada line: The Georgia#Granville intersection (and more specifically the plaza in front of the London Drugs) has replaced Robson Square as a major Vancouver’s focal point. That reminds us the importance of transit as it comes to define the geography of the city public space, and pedestrians activity, this for the best and the less good:
Transit, and transit users need to be accomodated, not hidden, and if the City of Vancouver is true to its transportation 2040 plan, the “problem” illustrated above will become more acute in the future: It should be addressed and not made worse.
We eagerly await the return of the bus 5 on its historic route and hope reason will prevail at City Hall
 Robson street is 80′ wide. There is virtually no example of pedestrian only street in Europe with such width. New York Broadway Avenue, at ~80′ wide, could be the closest, but the pedestrianized block around Times Square see a traffic of 350,000 pedestrians/day
July 2, 2013
At a time when “both TransLink and the City of Vancouver are aiming to establish a common vision for bus service in downtown Vancouver“, it is still interesting to have a look at what has been done in past in that respect
In 1975, the Bureau of Transit Services, then depending from the Minister of municipal affairs prepared a transit service plan to complement the City land plan :
This plan is important in many aspects, and mainly the adopted methodology
It lays down the general picture in which a downtown plan can take shape
Thought not in service in 1975, the West Coast Express concept were already discussed, and the terminals and vessels, for the seabus, were under construction. The skytrain was still a quite distant concept , but the LRT discussed in the plan is clearly considered as a pre-metro, aimed to be underground in the Core Business district.
But More importantly,
It lays down 7 principles guiding the plan
Those principle are subdivized into 3 common service characteristics:
- Direct Routing
- Minimize unecessary transfers
- Minimal walking distance to final destinations
(1) Don’t divert routes to serve specific needs: Diversion means a less attractive service for most of the travellers
(2) Use secondary services connecting to main ones, to serve “out of the way” area (rather than divert main routes)
(3) Use the downtown grid for “random schedule” transfers
(4) Go Straight thru the “center of gravity” of an area, and not its periphery, which increases the total walking distance by half.
(5) Transit and pedestrians: the concept of pedestrianization and transit must not be treated independently.
The study cites Jane Jacobs  to support the idea of bringing together the transit network with the pedestrian area 
(6) Prefer two way operations over one way, since it offers the maximum coverage
(7) Prefer nearside bus stop over farside, sinec it allows the passengers to alight before have to wait at a traffic light.
Many, if not all, of this principles are what Jarret Walker calls the geometry of Transit, and that is the reason why they are still as valid in 2013 as they were in 1975:
- Principle (7): Thought some cities like Montreal and Toronto, have bus stopa on the nearside, most of the cities adopt a farside model, since it usually allows a better general traffic output, and modern LRT/trams use also farside bus stops, since it allows a more efficient signal preemption
- Principle (1), (4) and (6): They are very strong transit geometry principles which have justified the conversion of Manners Mall in Wellington New Zealand, from a pedestrian only street to a transit mall.
- Principle (4) and (5) are why transit needs to be considered as part of the urban fabric
Some comments on the DT plan
The geometry of transit largely comfort the relevance of the historic streetcar grid:
- The choice of the streets is guided by principle (4)
- The streetcar service along Hornby, was expected to use the Arbutus line outside the DT core: the routing thru Hornby plan is consistent with the 1972 Erickson plan developped for the court house complex.
- The Robson square is envisioned to be a pedestrian oriented area, serviced by transit in full accordance with principle (4), and the Arthur Erickson’s vision for Robson square:
The only traffic through the square will be inner city buses, linking the West and 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 [...]
- At the time of drafting the plan the Robson bus was using the couplet of one way streets Smythe/Robson: a two way service along Robson is clearly the privilegied choice.
The advent of the Canada line kind of fullfill this vision.
The underlying philosophy leading to the plan, articulating pedestrian areas around transit, and not the reverse, illustrates the dramatic shift of the current Vancouver council approach, which dismiss the transit geometry, as illustrates the Robson bus circling the square to serve a “specific need”.
At the end a transit service is envisioned on Nelson to complement the planned development of the westend, as well as a pheripheral line, to serve the “social and recreational” place on the pheriphery of downtown:
Remarkably, they are echoing recurring wishes for Transit in downtown, but the plan warms that “…there really is not much to be gained in professing support for programmes to get more people to use public transit without commitment to actions to give transit priority use of streets in Downtown Vancouver and in other urban centres in the metropolitan area.”
Alas, the current Vancouver council policies could not be farther apart of this commitment to transit.
 Draft memorandum on transit service planning to complement downtown peninsula plans of the City of Vancouver, Bureau of Transit Services, BC Minister of Municipal affairs, Sept 19, 1975. (13.6MB file)
 the underlying concept had been drafted by Harry Rankin by 1970, see The Case for Rapid Transit…in 1970
 The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs, Random House, New York, 1961
 51-61-71 Project, block 71 Schematics, Arthur Erickson Architects, 1974
 Vancouver’s 1975 downtown transit plan, John Calimenete, April 7, 2010
 This view is echoed by Jan Gehl, among others, providing rational for Transit on Sydney’s George Street.
June 13, 2013
A follow up of the Knight street Bridge post
We are at the SB on Ramp from SE Marine Drive to Knight Street Bridge (apriori into Vancouver juridiction), the location is 7800 Knight bridge street according to VPD tickets issued right there…But who should get a ticket?
According to the Vancouver Police Department, the ticket issued will look like below:
Nota: It was no movable sign, at the time the ticket was issued, but a police cruiser was parked exactly the same way. The cops, far to be ashamed to block the bike lane, were explaining it was dangerous to ride on the roadway without an helmet. No argument is necessary in such case…
Indeed it is dangerous (the most dangerous spot in Canada by the way!): Could it be the cyclists fault?
The result of it, in the last 5 years,
- 13,154 helmet ticket issued in the last 5 years 
- How many ticket, for dangerous obstruction of a bike lane? 
 Is it illegal to deliberately obstruct a bike lane? apparently not in BC!
 Ticketed cyclists not paying their helmet fines,Mike Howell, Vancouver Courier, Sunday June 9th, 2013