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 
- 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 ….
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:
…That is the most detailled map provided by the Park board staff ….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
- 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)
- 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:
- 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
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:
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:
In both case, it requests to suppress some parking spots. Something the park board seems wary to do, in fact the report mentions :
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 
 Seaside Greenway Improvements,Vancouver Park Board, Oct 1st, 2013
 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
 Kits Beach bike path a done deal, Sandra Thomas, Vancouver Courier – October 15, 2013
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 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 
1998: Full deployment in the fall
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 . 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 , 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
- 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
- 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:
|Oct 1997||8,500 |
|Nov 1997||10,000 |
|1998||16,000 (*) |
(*) The Original BC Transit estimate was 12,000 
Some reasons for the success.
It is worth to notice a great emphasis on the marketing side, and its technical limitation  :
- 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 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 time gain is especially consequent (up to 40% time gain)
- 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
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
 TCRP Program report 65: Evaluation of Bus Bulbs, National Academy press, Washington D.C., 2001
 Vancouver’s BLine Experience, Jeffrey Busby, TRB Annual Meeting 13 January 2013.
 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
 “Planning of Vancouver’s Transit Network with an Operations-Based Model“, Ian Fisher, May 1 2009, Translink
 “Bus System Performance Review”. May 31, 2012 – Translink
October 9, 2013
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:
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 , 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:
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  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!
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 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 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!
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 , 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?
- Does the water mirror, is a necessary feature on the North Plaza?
probably not, since it hinders other spontaneous activities
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.
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.
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.
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?
 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.
 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.
 flickr user hisgett
 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
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