The Granville Street effect
There was a story on the CBC News last night that I would have liked to link to. Unfortunately it is not on their web site so I will have to summarise it from memory. When the Canada Line opened, bus service along Granville Street was significantly reduced. This has had a significant effect on the merchants of Marpole, at the southern end of the street. There used to be many bus passengers getting off buses there to walk to their homes. The surrounding streets being mainly four storey walk up apartments. The removal of bus services has also meant that many parking spots have been “restored” on Granville.
The merchants have been having a difficult time recently. In the months before the Canada Line sales had been falling due to the recession – the figure of “up to 40%” was quoted. Now the Marpole shop keepers are saying that the loss of bus service has cost them another 10% – hitting “impulse purchases” hard. For instance, a nursery still sells as many plants to people in cars but far fewer bunches of cut flowers. The loss of foot traffic is the cause. People who drive and park do not, apparently, spend as much as people who took the bus.
If I had not wasted so much time, prior to the introduction of the #98 B Line, dealing with the intransigence of the “Say NO to Granville Highway” crowd I might have let this go. But I want to know why Linda Meinhardt was not interviewed. She runs a shop, not in Marpole but on “South Granville” which is actually between 16th and Broadway to the north. She was the instigator and main driver of the campaign against buses and in favour of parking. And much misinformation, which worked up the residents into three nights of outrage at the hotel on 12th at Cambie, kitty corner to City Hall. She was especially contemptuous of the staff who had worked on the proposal. And she has now been proved wrong.
It is an important lesson too for the Downtown Business Improvement Association who have also consistently campaigned against buses and in favour of more parking – especially on streets like Granville and Robson.
The Canada Line has increased business – but that is for the casino, which is a “destination”. In fact I see the diversion of consumer spending into gambling as destructive of the economy. The “wealth creation”of a casino being as illusory as a ponzi scheme. Along its route, which efficiently whisks people through an area, underground, I would expect business to suffer. Yes, it will be better than during the construction phase, but street businesses do well from foot traffic, not high speed through traffic. And there is no station near the major on street shopping area known as Cambie Village, which suffered the worst during construction.
Every transit trip is an interrupted walk. Transit stops and stations ought to be seen as key to retailing. Far too often in Greater Vancouver bus passengers are banished to remote, sterile areas like Phibbs Exchange, or the Ladner bus loop. Always this is forced by local merchants who have only contempt for what they see as the low income bus passenger, and who regard buses as noisy, smelly nuisances. Of course, transit’s selection of large diesel buses only confirms that view. We do have to learn from our experiences, and acknowledge our mistakes. Far too often, transit advocates are expected to be cheer leaders for a system which, sadly, often lets us down, and seems incapable of learning from its past mistakes. Let’s all learn from this when we design our next system change.