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Below, some comments shared with the Vancouver city planners on the Joyce -Collingwood precinct review:

Heritage houses

An 100 year old house on Spencer street

An 100 year old house on Spencer street

There is a couple of 100 years old houses presenting some interesting heritage features in the neighborhood subject to rezoning: some strategy to preserve them should be in place so that the rezoning is not obliterating the history of the neighborhood.

The towers

Rezoning proposal as seen from Tyne#Kingsway

Rezoning proposal as seen from Tyne#Kingsway

The height in meter make more sense than the height in storey, since the building form is what matters (In this context  the tower floor plate size are important, but the lack of FSR limit for the tower site is a non issue).

The planner are aligning the tower geodesic height on the one of the nearby telus building (similar strategy occured for the construction of the Wall centre at Central Park)…an altrnative view could have been to set up some view cone, more namely from the Richmond dyke:

The telus and Wall centre tower are well visible from the Richmond ALR (near dyke on the Fraser North arm):  having those tower kept below the tree line, could have enforced the rural nature of this area

The telus and Wall centre tower are well visible from the Richmond ALR (near dyke on the Fraser North arm): having those tower kept below the tree line, could have preserved the rural nature of this location

The townhouses

The open house posters suggested 2 rows of townhouses: This eventually needs to be clarified, especially in term of set back (and parking). If in the long term that can transform the alleys into “real street”: it seems to be good, and that should be the intend. Unfortunately,  this doesn’t seem the case.

Naroiw stree in Groningen (a natural evolution of laneway) - credit photo pricetags

Narrow street in Groningen (a natural evolution of laneway) – credit photo pricetags

Vanness street (West of Joyce)

The plan call for 6 storeys all along Vanness Street. The current “redeveloped” building are at 4 storey max, but in fact 3 1/2 Storey along Vanness due to the topography. This could also need to be clarified for the new construction.

The plan seem to provide generous margins for the buildings. Ideally, the skytrain guideway should have provided a refrence for the building height.

The BC parkway (and skytrain viaduct) has carved the land here, so that the tree line keeps horizontal instead to follow the slope: , while construction follow the slope of the hill around, This specificity is not a big deal as long as the constructions are lower than the tree line. It becomes an issue otherwise: the Skytrain guideway is at level 3 of a building at Rupert, but as at level one of a building at Spencer: This is making a mid- rise building looking much taller at Spencer than at Rupert.

One could also consider that the rezoning for properties West of Spencer, should be considered in the wider context of the desired street-scape for Rupert

Wellington (East of Joyce)
At the difference of Vanness, the topography works for a more aggressive densification than proposed:

The properties at the SE corner of Payne#Wellington are proposed for 4 storeys, but 6 storeys building could work better (would not be much higher that the westward building along Wellington proposed at 6 storeys, as illustrated below


Visual impact of a 6 storey building aon the SE corner of Payne and Wellington: view from Wellington looking East, then West

McHardy street
Provisions should be made to ensure that buildings offer engaging facade on it:
That will help this street to reconnect the north and south side of the neighbourhood.
It is a street without sidewalk (but very poor pavement act as a traffic calming measure, and so the street doesn’t work that bad):  Installing sidewalk is not necessarily the best solution.  Treating this street as a shared space could eventually provide a better outcome:

A shared street concept could be a preferrable design for Mac Hardy.

A shared street concept could be a preferrable design for Mac Hardy.

Joyce street

All the rezoning should be conditional to the closure of the lanes immediatly  north of the Skytrain guideway. A bike/Pedestrian “passageway” or “commercial gallery” should be opened, to connect Yardley Avenue to Joyce street on the West.

JoycePrecinctOption3-Joyce-Looking-south

Joyce street looking South from Wellington (shadow ~5pm on June 21st)

Joyce street can be an interesting street, if the street wall provide some rhyme. However the idea to have tree planted in the middle of it  is not compatible with it:

  • It prevent the light to penetrate the street
  • It hinder the perspective
  • And the street right of way is not that wide (80ft): space dedicated to pedestrians movement should be maximized, median divider and left-turn lane should be removed.

trees on the side are welcome, but the cultivars need to be chosen to provide mature tree tall enough (such as London plane) to match the scale of the street wall: In short, the whole Joyce street-scape needs to be reviewed, and due to the significance of this street as a gateway for the neighborood: this could need to be part of a specify consultatio

A couple of thoughs on this rezoning process.

The Rational.

In 2014, the city decided “the neighborood didn’t developed as expected: let’s do something about it”. The city never admitted that the whole process was triggered by Westbank wanting to build a 30+ storey building at 5050 Joyce street [4]. (Instead, it rationalized it on the TransLink’s planned upgrade of the Joyce-Collingwood Skytrain Station [5] , as an opportunity to review its zoning policy)…and still… it was the right think to do (and there is no harm to admit it!)

  • don’t consider the Westbank application for spot rezoning,  but don’t reject it outright either – rather contextualize it in an  community plan.

Considering that the previous Joyce-Collingwood Station Area Plan dated back 1987, and considering that effectively, beside  the Collingwood village, which has became a posterchild for successful Transit Oriented Development [6], no much has happened elsewhere- some update was necessary.

The apriori limited area concerned by the rezoning makes also relatively good sense:

  • In the context of the Westbank application, you don’t necessarily want to have a community plan taking years to take shape
  • The transit station precinct specificity is in fine recognized by the perimeter of the rezoning, and this eventually allows to reach a quicker form of consensus (It is a natural density node) [7].

The city engagement processus.

  • A walk and “round table” was organised in December 2014, from there a diagnostic was “done”, which leaded to a first report
  • A workshop was organized on June 20, 2015 in 2 different sessions ( land use and building form, in one session and transportation in another one)

In this well attented workshop, the participants suggested different building typology for differents areas:

I have attended it, and in my recollection, the exercise turned out to be fairly consensual: the Marine drive development was seen by many as a good way to illustrates the desirable building form (and scale) for the Joyce station immediate vicinity, with transition zone formed by mid-rise and townhouse stitching it with the predominant Single family house area. The Transportation workshop was relatively uneventful. After an “open house” held in  July 2015, where the city staff presented its recollection of the above,  the Vancouver planners  proposed 3 differents zoning options (the difference residing essentially in the heigh of the high rise immediatly adjacent to Joyce Station). on October 20, 2015. Below is an illustration of the most ambitious proposal (highest tower):

Up to October 20, the things was rolling out surpinsigly smoothly. However, on october 20, at the location the city staff was unveiling its rezoning proposals, it was also an unadvertised “open house” hosted by Westbank to present its formal  5050 Joyce street application. That was  unfortunate enough and proven to be a turning point:

Quickly enough, some people “organizing on the ancestral, traditional, and unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples” launched a curiously worded petition and a new organisation popped-up Jara, with very certainly many well intentioned activists. Beside their concerns on “affordable housing”,  it has always been hard to understand their ultimate motivations (their last post doesn’t help either), leading them to adopt a rather confrontational approach with the city consultation efforts .

It is possible the people at Jara was not aware of the early stage of the consultation process: The city didn’t seem to have put lot of effort at reaching the neighborood [1], something Jara has been kind to correct. Jara has been pretty active at engaging the local citizens, and look to have engaged in some efforts overlapping the city’s organised workshop, and has produced its own report, however it seems to not have helped to dispell some misconceptions such as “rezoning = expropriation

That eventually leaded to another apriori more controversial open house on April 6, 2016:

Collingwood_open_house_April2016

The tension was quickly diffused by breaking the attendance in small group, preventing a town hall meeting showdow: the attendance turned out to have more questions that recriminations. However, where the attendance seems to agree is on the question of the benefits occuring from rezoning:

The neighborhood has accepted very significant densification. The Wall centre at Central park, has generated ~$12M in CAC + DCC, this in addition of the CNH annex and Mosaic space [2], from which apparently not a single cent has yet been spent in the neighborhood [9]… So it is certainly possible the neighborhood feels short changed on the topic. Explaining that the neigborly community centers, such as Killarney, a 30mn walk away, can serve Joyce Collingwood is probably unsatisfactory. It is not that the question of community amenities is new [2], but the expectation is to have those amenities such as swimming pool or ice rink, or even public libraries coming right in the neighborood accepting very signifcant densification; an almost pre-requisite for “density well done”

The draft plan presentation and the 3d model

3d printing model isualizing the proposed rezoning change for the Joyce COllingwood neighborhood

3d printing model isualizing the proposed rezoning change for the Joyce COllingwood neighborhood

The 3d virtual model previously presented in this post was a private initiative: it is my belief that the city should have shared its 3d model with the public (that to allowing the public to interact with it directly). The city presenting a 3d printing to illustrate the envisioned change is very welcome: It is an important tool to help the conversation…thought the model has arrived a bit late in the rezoning conversation (the city planner mentioned, the 3d model was only ready on Friday May 27, 2016), we just hope the city will make larger use of such tools (3d computer model and 3d printing) in the future.

The evil is in the details

I must admit, a final workshop to discuss the details of the plan (that is not questioning its general thrust, and densification objective which has been the object of previous workshops) could have been welcome: That will be the object of another post presenting the ideas shared with the city

The plan is scheduled to go beyond council on June 14 or 15th, 2016 – In the meantime, properties concerned by the rezoning have started to appear on MLS: the asking price is around 100% above assessed price (vs 20-30% for other properties in the neighborhood), all this “land lift” is something which will not be availbale for CAC (a direct consequence of the opacity of the city’s CAC policy, which is object of backroom deal)


[1] I have been made aware by a local mailing list relaying the Collingwood Neighborood House messages, but the city didn’t seem to have advertised the rezoning in the local flyer, the Renfrew Collingwood community news , neither at the Joyce station or other busy areas.

[2]RC Commty Initiative Sept 2012 draft

[3] this 3d model is freely accessible on the sketchup library site can be dowloaded in Google earth…and printed in 3d too…

[4] Westbank conducted an Open house on February 19, 2014 to gather feedback on its first prosoal. Westbank purchased the land for $9,930,000 in 2014 according to Colliers Canada

[5] Some observer will have noticed that the Joyce cCollingwood get a signficant upgrade in the years 2011-213 to accomodate the Compass card gate: most of it has been recently demolished, see more on the Metrobabel blog

[6] This Transit oriented DEvelopment has been the object of numerous study, as well as having attracted the attention of several blog, such as Fraseropolois.

[7] This is a striking difference with the Grandview woodland rezoning process, where the Commercial-Broadway station precinct is considered as no more than a sub-zone of the Grandview Woodland community. As such this precinct of regional interest (intersection of 2 rapid transit line) has been bogged down by local concerns which are trumping the general interest.

[8] The Jara campaign is also followed by EyeOnNorquay and more generally the rezoning is also follwoed with a critical view by CityHallwatch.

[9] Apparently the city, would like to use the CACs toward the building of a passerelle over boundary Rd: it doesn’t seem to be a request from the community and we don’t think it is a right use of the local CAC $: we will hopefully elaborate on it in a later post

bus20at54th

3 bus 20 in a row, a typical bus bunching happening on Victoria#54th

Reliability on the route 20 is a huge issue. Its lack of reliability stem essentially of its Hasting and Commercial Drive segment. Those segments are also the most detrimental to the speed of transit in this corridor. both speed and reliability are very signifcant factors affecting both the transit attractiveness and efficiency.

The average bus 20 speed is 14.36km/h [1′, but in practice most of the riders will experiment a significantly lower average speed on the route busiest section. Below is the speed map for the bus 20 on an average weekday.

bus 20 (to Downtown) speed map on a weekday as computed from [1]
The horizontal axis represents the time of the day, the vertical axis, the location on the corridor, while the color represents the speed. (see also speed map for the SB direction


[1] Translink GTFS data for weekday September 2014

it has been lot of research carried out on the capacity of roads, transit or pedestrians infrastructures, with results proven empirically. Such don’t really exist for the cycle tracks, but as the success of the London’s “Super cycling highways” shown, it will become a significant matter

NACTO, in a recent publication [8], estimates the capacity of a 2 way bike lane (3 to 3.50m) at 7,500 bike/hour. This number seems to be derived of the Highway Capcity Manual citing very dusty publications [1]. this post argues that the capacity of a bikeway is more in the 1,500 cyclist/hr/lane (where a lane is 1.20m to 1.5m wide)

A short Litterature review

Most of the papers trying to estimate a bike lane’s throughput tend to rely either on mathematical models, experiments or a blend of both:

An example of experiment

An example of experiment leaded by [2] to determinate a bike lane throughput. The experiment above has allowed [2] to conclude that the capacity of a bikelane should be in the 2,500 bike/hr range

The problem of such approaches is they are not (yet) validated by practice (…and in some case, the experiments seem to be more representative of a velodrome typology than an urban bike lane). They also tend to provide a great range of result: One literature study [3] found a capacity of 1,500-5,000 cyclists per hour and traveling speed around 12-20 km/h. Another literature study [4] found a capacity of 2,000-10,000 cyclists per hour for a 2.5 m wide cycle track. It is also important to notice that all these numbers concern an uninterrupted bike lane (e.g bike lane with no intersection).

However, [5] ( as cited by [6] ) reported that the theoretical and practical capacities of a Chinese bicycle lane are about 2000 bicycles/h/ln and 1280 bicycles/h/ln, respectively… That is also in line with an empirical result presented by [7] concerning the Denmark:

Bike lane capacity as a function of its width, as according to [7]

Bike lane capacity as a function of its width, as according to [7]

How much lanes of cyclists fit in 3.5m width bikeway
[7] tend to answer to it:

If a 1.8 to 2 m wide bikeway fit 2 lanes of cyclists, any additional lane could require a 1.20m additional width (notice that the cyclists could have a tendency to ride in quincunx to increase their available lateral room). That is the reason for the suggested significant increase in capacity as soon as an unidrectional bike lane reach 3m in the graph above. (There is also some reasons to believe that a 4 meters bidirectioanl bike lane is not width enough to enable 2 lanes of cyclists in each direction in a sustainable way: see video below)

Validation of the numbers in practice

Up to recently, it was basically no opportunity to validate a bikelane model capacity in real life. China of course has wide and busy bike lanes, but they has never presented a typology directly applicable to Europe or America, be by their different geometry or by the type of vehicle: many trikes (up to recently), and nowadays those bikelane tend to be overwhelmed by sccoter (electric or not) (- 70% in Hangzhou as measured by [6]. Bikes also tend to move much more slowly). However, with the recent opening of the London cycle highway this things could change:

This video represent the cycling traffic on the London’s Blackfriars bridge: The incoming lanes presents the symptom of a bikeway reaching capacity (bike moving slowly, at speed apparently just enough to maintain balance, and the rare occasional take over use the opposite lane)

What is the effective throughput of Black friars Bridge bike lane?

Sure enough, some cycling supporters quickly raised the question while some other provided some numbers. Here are ours

  • there are 37 incoming cyclists crossing a a line (represented by the bottom of the video)
  • there are 24 outgoing cyclists crossing the same line

that represents an “instant” throughput of 11,000 cyclists/hour on a period of 20s, or ~3,300 cyclists/hour/ln in the busiest direction (or the equivalent of 10,000 cyclists/hour per car width lane).

First issue, Instant throughput ≠ Throughput

Traffic tends to not flow homegeneously (move in wave, aka “stop and go” traffic), and a measure on 20s can’t be directly scaled into a more generalized throughput. [7] faced with similar issues applied a correction factor based on freeway traffic observation (by comparing maximum observed traffic volumes in 15 minute intervals and maximum volumes in 10 and 20 sec intervals on freeways): this correction factor is estimated to be 0.63

The estimated maximum throughput per lane observed on the Blackfriar Bridge video above become closer to 2000bile/hr/lane. Still a sustantial number (but already significantly less than the number touted by NACTO), a number also in agreement with theorical number exposed by

[5]

Second issue, Uninterrupted bike lane throughput ≠ Interrupted bike lane Throughput

The video below better illustrates the later issue:

There are right and left turning cyclists, which fatally indhers the capacity of a bike lane…and there are signal controlled intersections (a necessity as illustrated by the difficulty of the cyclist, waiting at an intersection, to integrate itself in the main bike lane). As for motor traffic, all these tend to halve the real capacity of a typical interrupted urban bike lane vs an hypothetcal uninterrupted one. So that the real capacity we could measure here tend to be more in the ~1,000 to ~1,700 bike/hr/ln (according to if we apply a correcting factor or not). Those numbers are also in line with results from the field carried by [5] and [7]

Why all that matters?
Notice the 2 double deckers in one lane, seen in less than 30s: Could we conclude that the transit capacity of this lane is 24,000people/hour?

It matters since wrong numbers could lead to wrong decisions on the allocation of the street space, but also on the “right sizing” of a bike infrastructure.
The matter is of importance, essentially in regard of transit:

There is no question that a bike lane can achieve a very high throughput but does a 3.5 meter bike lane can carry as much as people than a tram or a BRT?

According to NACTO, a bus lane (BRT) can carry 4,000 people (8,000 if train): Those number thought slightly optimistic [9] are fairly realistic, and can be verified empirically…Here we infer that a bike lane of similar width (3 to 3.5m) can be competitive with a buslane but not a trams transit system, in term of throughput.

Furthermore we have not touched the whole notion of Level of Service: the mentioned capacity for Transit are design capacity, that is capacity allowing the transit system at its design (optimal) speed. Reaching the capacity of the bike lane as measured on the BlackFriars Bridge tend to infers a degradation of the speed for cyclists (at least by queuing at traffic light). We also didn’t touch the bike parking issue


[1] the third edition of the Highway capacity Manual suggests a capacity range of 1700-2500 bicycle/hr/ln where each lane is 3 to 4 feet. Those numbers are inferred of previous publication (“bikeway planning design and guideline” institute of traffic and transportation engineering University of California at Los Angeles 1972, “Geometric Design” by W. King, C., and Harkens, in Transportation and Traffic Engineering Handbook, Institute of Transportation Engineers, 1972). the 7,500 number touted by the NACTO correspond to the highest range of it considering that a 3.5m wide can feet 3 lanes of bike

[2] “Experimental feature of bicycle flow and its modeling” Jiang R. Hu M. , Wu Q. and Song W.

[3] “Operational Analysis of Uninterrupted Bicycle Facilities”, Allen, P., Rouphail, N., Hummer, J. E., and Milazzo, J. S. Transportation Research Record, 1636 29-36, 1998

[4] “Bicycle Traffic Flow Characteristics: Experimental Re-sults and Comparisons”, Navin, F. P. D. ITE Journal, 64 31-36, 1994

[5] “Capacity and level of service for urban bicycle path in China”, Feng Li, China MUnicpal Engineering magazine 1995, 71: 11-14

[6] “Estimating Capacity of Bicycle Path on Urban Roads in Hangzhou, China”, Zhou D., Xu, C. and Wang D. , Transportation Research Board 94th Annual Meeting, 1995.

[7] Analysis of Bicycle Traffic on One-way Bicycle Tracks of Different Width, Thomas Skallebæk Buch and Poul Greibe, Trafitec,

[8] Transit Street Design Guide, NACTO 2016

[9] The French CERTU suggest a design capacity of 3,500 for aBRT, 6,000 fro a tram. Translink considered a design capacity of 3,000 for a BRT, and 7,000 for a LRT on Broadway.

Prologue

The cyty released a staff report on April 13th, 2016. Thought one could expect such city staff reports should present an as objective picture as possible of the poos and cons of the different solutions, to guide the council into its decisions, they rather tend to be drafted to support foregone conclusions dictated by the council.

As an example, thought my frequent readers will recognize me as supporting a skytrain solution on Broadway, I will have no difficulty to recognize that the 2012 city staff presentation against a broadway LRT [3] was embarassingly biaised to the point of ludicrousness [4]. After a “privatized” consultation process organized by the VPSN [9], on behalf of the city in October 2012, leaving no doubt on the intention of the later. the latest report concerning Robson square [5] doesn’t escape to this plague [7]. We just summarize its short comings below:

On the transit rerouting aspect

The report fails to recognize the whole implication of the proposed bus 5 Transit re-routing. More particularly it fails to states that

  • it will affect connections to the rest of the transit network ( it  mentions only that it reduces access to major destinations on Granville) [8]
  • It will involves an additional $300,000 operating cost per year [6]

On the shared space concept (bus/bike only going through the square)

The report quickly dismisses this solution on  “the expectation is that events within this block would be more frequent and/or prolonged in nature”.

One will note that the redesign of the North Plaza – today hindered by the centennial fountain- will enable this square to host many events, and this square has been designed flexible enough in this intention…in such a way that the need to close Robson square for specific events could become a rare oddity.

While it is not acceptable to have  months bus rerouting for event which could be located elsewhere such as the Viva Robson redux, it is understandable to see ponctual closures (what is already happening): The city report falls short to identify an example of event which could require the closure of Robson square for longer than a week-end.

Clearly exceptionnal transit rerouting  are not enough of an argument to provide inferior transit on day to day basis. As in most place, it is not either in Nice, France :

Nice_tram_event

Google street capture, Nice France

On the square genesis

We have written a post serie on its history in 2012: The architect, Arthur erickson  clerly stated that:

“The only traffic through the square will be inner city buses, linking the Westend 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,…

That is in obvious contradiction with the report account of the square history, however the above quote (as well as the rest of the history and its context) can be easily verified in the original records held at the Vancouver archives.

Similarly the 2009 VPSN competition identified the North Plaza as the Vancouver focal point, not Robson square: the city reports seems to be purposely confusing on the issue.

VancouverRedCarpetHapa

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

On the Accessibility issues

Bordeaux_sq_2

Place de la Comédie- Bordeaux : the tram is mingling with pedestrian and bike, in a very natural way, everyone enjoy equal access, and the sqaure is welcoming to people with mobility challenge thanks to its transit

The report briefly refers to the Westend seniors, but doesn’t recognize  any accessibility issues involved with the bus rerouting.

The court house, the VAG, as well as Robson square will be de facto less accessible. Transit could be one block away, but can  already be a lot, even too much, for people with mobility challenge…that de facto tends to make the square less inclusive of people of all abilities.

Ironically, the city report mentions 3 example of inspiring central square:  Trafalgar square in London, Pionner Square in Portland, Yonge and Dundas square in Toronto): all  abundantly serviced by Transit…right on the squares.

Toronto_YD_Square

Pioneer sqaure in Portland as well as Yonge and Dundas sqaure in Toronto are abundantly serviced by Transit

Why not have taking an example of a sucessful “central square” not serviced by transit? does that even exists in a city comparable in size with Vancouver)?  It be interesting to know?

Beyond Robson square,  the Robson retail strip will be much less accessible by Transit,  both due to a less legible route and poorer connection with rest of the network. As well it will create a gap on this major East/West corridor. all this will potentially affect the retail strip attractivity.  A reason why succesful pedestrian mall flourish is because they are well irrigated by Transit as is the case on 16th street in Denver:

denver16thmall

Denver 16th Mall, is seamlessly irrigated by Transit: this allow an extensive pedestrainization scheme, without compromising accessibility

On the competition of both squares (800 Robson and North Plaza)

The report tries to paint it as complementary: this is rather unconving since it ignores the redesign of the North Plaza which will affect its functionning pattern.

Furthermore, the report fails to recognize the changing pattern of focal square in Vancouver. Thought Robson square is an important one, Viva has consummed lot of energy (and $tax payer) with mitigated result on it. With the introduction of the Canada line, it is very possible that the “natural” meeting point has slipped more North: Nowadays Georgia#Granville is a popular focal point, also a location for demonstrations, but it is very possible that a more welcoming North plaza take precedence on both this point and Robson. At the end , if there is lot of pedestrian in down town, there is not necessarily enough of them to activate both place at the time (even if those square are made more “sticky”). Time will tell, but prudence could have suggested to wait the completion of the North Plaza redesign and to be able to evaluate its impacts.

Metrics

The report is lacking  of metrics, be number of impacted bus riders   (3 million a years), pedestrians count or even car count. the surface of the envisionned square is not even mentioned, but the road surface in question amount to 560sqm (80x7m).

Notice that in a shared space, this surface could have surrendered by pedestrians which could have been slightly disturbed only from time to time. Smart design (like one) way could have reduced the bus footprint to a 3m wide path. However the surface is not the most important, it is its location.

Cycling

The report doesn’t mention it directly, but HUB, as well as the Committe on Active transportation (involving in fact the same people) have made it clear they expect the square to be still a bike thoroughfare. Whatever the final design, due to the geographic location of the square, it will be on the desire line of cyclists.

So at the end the square will certainly be divided in 2 by a bike path, be a formal one or not. The former will be probably preferred, certainly by ideological biais of the city council, but also because cyclists could become a hazard for blind and other people with limited vision.

Conclusion

The tangible benefits of a square not including transit versus one including the bus are not obvious and the report is failing to mention any. What is more obvious is that the bus rerouting compromise the inclusivenes of the square, its accessbility as well as accessibility of other downtown destination by Transit.

It is  a place making clearly done at the expense of transit, and not so much at the expense of car. on a block level it could looks nice, but globally it is counter productive, since it doesn’t help to reduce the overall reliance on the car in the city. However, it is not integrated in a comprehensive pedestrian strategy able to reduce the car presence in downtown

More importantly, it is a place making excluding citizen based on their ability to walk or cycling.

At some point in the future, the decision on Robson square will be reversed, because it is simply the sense of history: place making is good, but place making done at the expense of accessibility is just bad and should not happen in our century.

…It is just sad that  Vancouver has not matured to this point yet.

robson-with-transit

What is wrong with this idea of Robson square? answer has still not been provided – credit photo City Of Vancouver


[1] part 1, Erickson 1966 proposal and

part 2, the final Erickson proposal

[2] 51-61-71 Project, block 71 Schematics, Arthur Erickson Architects, 1974

[3] Broadway rapid transit, City of Vancouver Engineering department, November 27, 2012

[4] In fact, the most ludicrous slices have been removed of the official city report, but they are still available on a copy posted by the Vancouver mayor office

[6] Downtown bus review serivice, Phase 2- Technical summary for phase 2 consultation. Translink & City of Vancouver, April 2014

[7] Some blogs following closely the city affairs tend from time to time to end on the same conclusions, on other matter, that is notoriously the case of CityHallWatch

[8] In fact this point has been underlined first by a contributor on Pricetags Thanks to him.

[9] the VPSN raison d’etre has always been the uncompromised pedestrianization of Robson square, this group being hostile to the shared space concept.

A previous post already largely endorsed the last October 2015 Transit optimization proposals. Most of it got recommended to be implemented in a report released on March 30th [3], noticeably:

  • Create a B-Line along Hastings
  • Improve travel time and reliability along the 49.

That is very good. More remarkably, the media reporting is overall positive [4]: a welcome change here too!

A preliminary comment on 2 highly controversial changes, route 49 and 258

The route 49

Not surprisingly the last change (object of a 2014 post), involving the retiring of the Champlain Heights detour was one of the most challenged by a well organized opposition [5].

 

heather-mccain

The executive director of Citizens for Accessible Neighbourhoods, Heather Mac Cain, happens to be directly concerned by the 49 re-routing. She were also instrumental to mobilize the opposition  to a bus change. A rare snow fall happened to help the campaign too  [1]

On March 11th 2014, the Vancouver city council, apparently assuming that  money flow freely on Translink, unanimously opposed improvements of the the bus 49, by adopting a motion moved forward by Geoff Meggs. However, in the 2014 proposal, no mitigation measures were proposed to address  some concerns of the Champlain Heights residents. Our post dedicated to this route suggested an alteration of the route 26, something also done in the 2015 proposal, enabling to maintain the statu quo in term of bus accessibility in the Champlian Heights neighborhood. So the change is poised to be implemneted in summer 2016.

The Medias had framed this change as a “bus cut” in 2014 [1]: the same change is now and finally framed as an improvement [4]

The route 258

The discontinuation of this route to the benefit of service improvements on both routes 44 and 250, which it duplicates to propose a direct connection between West Vancouver and UBC, was mostly a measure toward a rationalization of the network (which include legibility improvement by pruning routes which duplicate existing service), as well as rationalization of the rolling stock (buses 258 are 40 footer operated by West Vancouver Blue Bus, while the buses 44 are 60 footer operated by CMBC). This proposal was not changing the “geometry” of the network, but could have eventually resulted in some operating cost reduction. The change came as surprisingly controversial, and Translink has preferred to defer it. However the “B linization” of the route 44 should move forward, and it is probable this change will need to be considered again.


The main topic of the post
The East Hastings Trolley routes.

The main change here was to merge the route 4 (Powell) and 16 (Renfrew), a proposal already done in 2005, already then to remove excess capacity in the Hastings corridor [2].

  • the main drawback was that East Hasting  was loosing a direct connection with the Millenium line.
    • A drawback compounded by the discontinuation of bus route 190 and 160 (West of the Kootenay loop) connecting the East suburbs to Vancouver via the Hastings corridor: Those later change being are the consequecne of teh advent of the Evergreen line

The proposal is hence sent back to the drawing board: A good time to expose an alternative proposal grounded on a couple of principles:

  • One artery, one local bus route (+ an optional “B” line route):
    • – On East Hasting: route 14 (doubled by the limited stop route  135)
      – On Renfrew route 16
      – On Nanaimo, route 7
      – On Powell, route 4
  • Each route should be strongely anchored
    • – Kootenay loop (14)
      – Nanaimo station (7)
      – Renfrew and 29th station (16)

The above principles call for the rationalization as proposed by Translink. However, as we have seen, it could deprives the East Hastings corridor (or at least the 2 blocks between Commercial and Renfrew) which happens to be a commercial area.

The below solution doesn’t put in question the east trolley routes 4,7,14 and 16…However, it short turns  all “heavy” North South routes operated by artics trolleys  (3,8 and 20), at the North end of their corridor: A suggestion we have already did for the DownTown bus service review, but which was already present in the 2005 plan also [2]. The route 4 is also extended to  improve the network connectivity.

EastSideTrolleyRoute

A proposal to streamline the trolley services on the East Hastings corridor

The advantages of this solution:

  • Ii removes lot of excess of capacity in the corridor (if too much, some 20 run could be maintained on Hastings)
  • It frees lot of articulated trolley, which are in very short supply (and inherently more expensive to run than conventonal trolley)
  • It allows to achieve much gretaer reliability ofon route 3,8 and 20 (consequence of shorter route and more noticeabily teh avoiding of the often congested Hastings section)
  • It maintains a direct connection between the Millenium line and the expo line and the Hastings corridor.
  • It increase the network connectivity: all NS routes connect with both the Hastings and Powell corridor (and bus 4 is extended to improve the network connectivity), as well as the bus 201 and other peak hour route connecting with the North Shore

 

The solution has some drawbacks:

The case for routes 3 and 8 has already been discussed in a previous post

  • The connection of Hastings with the M line is less good than the one insured by the route 20 (for the section West of Commercial)
    • The penalty cost is 4mn in peak hour peak direction (West bound ~8am), but could be less whether CMBC had the decency to relocate its very frustrating timing point on the route 16  from Broadway to Renfrew station which is just one stop away! (after 15 years of M line service, it could be about time!).
  • The connection of Hastings with the Expo line is less good than the one insured by the route 20
      Thought that the 16 connects with the Expo line – and route 7 servicingthe nearby Powell corridor – can provide a transfer free option for people sensitive to it, it is effectively  one of the main drawback. However, on can notice: there is no obvious  reason to offer this direct access from the Expo line to the section of Hastings West of Commercial and not to do the same for its East side?

It is probable those drawbacks are not enough to offset the benefits of the above proposal. It is likely that most of the customers arriving by Skytrain could still prefer to use the route 20, even if that involves  a transfer to reach a final destination along the Hastings corridor. it will be still the fastest option (especially considering the higher frequency of bus 20): That also explains why it is important to keep an efficient transit connection along Commercial, a topic for another post!

Translink responded present to the first. We are still waiting the proposition of the municipalities for the second…


[1]  Bus service cut worries Champlain seniors, Vancouver Courier, February 25, 2014.

[2] Vancouver/UBC Transit plan, Translink July 2005

[3] Transit Network Review, Translink, Spring 2016,

[4] TransLink modifies bus routes across Metro Vancouver Kelly SInosly, VancouverSun March 31, 2016
Improved bus service may be coming to some routes in Vancouver, Janet Brown, iNews880am, Vancouver, March 31th 2016
TransLink gets 12,000 service comments, Martin van den Hemel, Vancouver24hrs, March 31, 2016

[5] “HaveAcow”, on the railforthevally blog, vividly explained the dynamic at play on such change proposal in a comment on a Dec 17th, 2014 post titled
“Incresing Transit Capacity By Reducing Transit Stops – A New Stragety For Broadway”

The compass card/fare gate deployment has been a big disapointment so far, it is also a mismanagement tale, as reminded in a March 4th,  CBC article, as well as other surprise, such  the discontinuity of the fare integration between buses and skytrain, a result, among other of unconsequential choice done by Translink and presented as fait accompli to the public, this under the watch of a  very absent, if not complicit  Council of mayors, when transit fare policy is supposed to be a political choice (to be decided by the council of mayors, not Translink on its own)

 

jianshui_bus_rfid_reader

a rfid reader in Jianshui, China

We will pass on the lame excuse of the “new high tech technology” to justify all the troublef deployement of the Compass card. That could have been true in the 90s…Since then rfid systems have been deployed flawlessly in countless cities around the world: North America could have been slow to catch the trend, but that doesn’t make any excuse for Translink and its supplier to not deliver…and they didn’t,  as reminded by Stephen Rees.

Even the procurment contract seems to have been botched: Translink has pay Cubic for a solution (tap-in tap-out on buses) which doesn’ work

 

 

 

The recent system accessibility controversy

At first, one could think of it as another manufactured controversy. After all, even with the faregate, Translink will stay one of the most accessible transit system in the world: the overwhelmning majority of people in wheelchair will be still able to access the skytrain, indeed with the impediment of a fare gate: but as a barrier, it creates an impediment to everyone, so no much of a big deal…. However when the concerned people have very limited manual hand dexterity, the barrier can become an unpassable “wall”: Gated transit system around the world have staffed station, which enable them to handle those and other unforseen cases. Many people will rightfully ask: Don’t those people have anyway to use their hand to call a lift to access the platform? …not necessarily:

service_dog

people with mobility challenge, including hand, can rely on diverse solution, to assist them. Pressing a  button can be a  relatively simple task for an assitance dog – tapping a card is another story

 

How much a Transit system needs to be accessible?

or should we be content with what we have, or should we pursue ever greater inclusion of people with mobility impairment?

The discussion is  deja vu: it used to be a not so distant time where buses, trams, and subway was not accessible at all to wheelchair…and old  subway system have to deal with the stigmate of such time. In Vancouver it was not judged necessary to install an elevator at Granville station until 2006.

Relevance to switch to low floor buses or trams was not considered obvious  up to very recently:  <em>yes they are accessible, but carry less people…and people in Wheelchair have access to specialiazed transportation such as Handydart, so why go to the expense to accomodate them on the main system? [1][2]

Many choices done as late as the 90’s, which compromised transit accessibility, on the altar of finance, could be politically not palatable nowadays, and it is a progress.

It is true that each time, we need to accomodate people with special needs, this has a cost (supported by the transit agency), but exclusionary solutions have also a social cost (not necessarily supported by the transit agency). so a right balance need eventually to be found, and at the end it should be a political choice (system accessibility is a political choice), not an adminsitrative one.

It appears  Translink didn’t foreseen any accesibility  issue with unattended faregate, in despite of its own 2005 fare gate study suggesting otherwise, or at least didn’t communicate publicly on such limitation [3].

Why this Translink accessibility issue popped-ip so lately?

The faregate has been there standing still for years now, and the controversy seem to have just popped up days before the scheduled closure of the gate! What has happening?

Are the disabled people associations guilty of not have warmed Translink soon enough or is it effectively a deliberate  Translink choice to not address the problem and not even mention it?

The second solution seems als the most likely:  The discontinuation of the integrated fare system has been hidden until presented as a “fait accompli”. It is likely a similar strategy has been pursuing here.

Is the accessibility problem solvable?

Technical and ergonomic solutions able to accomodate people with little or no hand ability in a dignified manner exist: you can see them at work at Whistler:

whistler_rfid

RFID check to access to the Whistler/Blackcomb lifts: this check doesn’t require any other action of the customer, than moving along the sensor, providing the RFID card is stocked in the right pocket.

It could have been fairly simple to have a  solution  where gates are activated by a compass card attached on the side of a wheelchair.  Obviously, when this come as an afterthought, the retrofitting of existing gate can be much more  complicated (hence expensive).

Why that has not been explored is a mystery: Translink seems fully accountable for it (unless it proves it could not be reasonnably aware of it, but the 2005 study tends to prove otherwise), and that give reason to its contemptors: why pour more taxpayer money on an organization running out of control?

Now, we are faced with the obvious: the infamous 2009 business case [2] presented by Translink to the council fo mayors to justify the fare gates, was unprofessional and worse, unethical. Only the Mayor of Burnaby openly critized it while  the council of mayors voted the fare gates program on the base of this disgracious business case.

This disgrace and the on going mismanagament of the Compass/fare gates implementation, mark a very low point for Translink and cast serious doubt on how much trust we should put in this organization.

 

At the end, one has to observe it is  under the impulse of the Province, that some people with mobility impairment will be still able to use the Skytrain… the council of mayors has stay silent, way too much silent on the topic …it’s also true all this fare gate debacle has unrolled under their watch!

 

 


[1] In fact, Low floor bus became a defacto standard in the transit world not so much because they are accessible than they in fact tunred out to provide greater productivity than high floor buses, due to fastwer baording/alighting.

[2] We have access only to a 2011 summary. as far as we know, Translink never publicly released the complete 2009 report.

[3] In fact , at the demand of the Council of mayors, Translinkissued a business case summary in 2011, which stay silent on the  limitation of the implemented solution, not only in term of accessibility, but also in term of fare integration ( fare issued on a bus can’t be used on the skytrain: a technology tradeoff  decided by Translink which is not presented in the business case either)

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