Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for the ‘transit’ Category

HandyDart users concerned about wait times and ride availability: seniors’ report

leave a comment »

The headline comes from the Langley Advance. The good thing is that the report itself is actually available in the article page and for download from Scribd, so you can make your own judgement about what it says. Of course the press will always go with a negative for anything about TransLink – and I must admit that I have long been critical of the lack of service available to HandyDART users. What I think is remarkable about this survey is that it reports a generally positive tone in the responses.

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-2-38-19-pm

The other thing that has to be noted is that very few of the people answering the survey were entirely reliant on the service.

screen-shot-2017-02-03-at-2-40-06-pm

Now the report does spell out where it was conducted – across BC but proportionately by population with properly weighted response rates. So this includes results from Metro Vancouver – where it is contracted out to an American operator (MVT) – and several of the larger BC Transit service areas.

And my impressions are not those of a user. At the time I worked for BC Transit and then TransLink (1997 – 2004) I was only too aware of a very high level of dissatisfaction. That was not based on an impartial survey but rather the constant pressure from advocates – and dissatisfied users. On social media and talking to people my own age, all I see are complaints. But if you think about it, that is also the case with transit service in general. The posts about friendly helpful bus drivers are few and far between – but the gripes when service is less than perfect are plentiful.

Some of the responses reported seem to be a bit obvious: “71% of respondents used the service to get to medical appointments.” Well that is because the age group of users is heavily weighted to those who no longer work or go to full time education. The supply of HandyDART trips is inadequate to meet every need so they have to be rationed, and those are the three for getting priority. Now, if you are a user who knows how to work the system you ensure that your doctor or clinic is located in or next to a mall so that you can quite reasonably combine trip purposes. But when you book it is for a medical appointment and not just to change your library books.

Of course in recent years many more services can be conducted on line – and as a senior myself I am well aware that the degree to which people of my age group have become adept at using computers. I no longer even own a cheque book and the number of times I actually need to go into a bank branch a year is less than one handful.

Buses in the City of Vancouver are now all accessible: back in 2004 they still looked like this:

TL 2926 on #16 Arbutus 2006_0416

One thing that has not changed is the level of dissatisfaction with taxis – which are used to supplement the inadequate supply of purpose built vans. This is not so much about the vehicles (though accessible taxis are often pre-empted by cruise ship passengers with lots of luggage) as the drivers, who still have a low level of understanding or tolerance for assisting people with disabilities. It is notable that those in Metro Vancouver get much lower ratings than those in other parts of BC.

I also still think that if we had an accessible, door to door, shared ride service – better than a bus, cheaper than a taxi – the overall level of service and customer satisfaction would increase and the need to rely on all those other types of service mentioned in that chart would decline. I hope that we recognize that this is a real need and one that ought to be met by the public sector, since Uber has clearly targeted this market as the one it thinks it will be able to monopolize and extort.

UPDATE   February 10

HandyDART trips to increase by 85,000 in 2017 says Translink CEO: currently, HandyDART makes 1.2 million trips each year and has 23,000 people registered with the service.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 3, 2017 at 3:11 pm

We’re number 59!

leave a comment »

UPDATE Feb 6
I usually put the updates at the end of the post. I am chagrined to admit that I missed a very important data point which Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight noticed 

Berlin-based Movinga has pegged the monthly cost in Vancouver at just US$66.26.

When converted from U.S to Canadian currency, that equals $88.68.

However, a monthly one-zone adult transit pass in Metro Vancouver costs $91.

That’s the cheapest way to travel, and it only works for those who live relatively close to work or school.
A two-zone pass sets an adult transit rider back $124.

And a three-zone adult pass costs a whopping $170.

Sorry


In a recent study that compares transit costs around the world our system ranks about half way in a list of 89 that puts Cairo as the cheapest and London as the most expensive. Toronto is in the top ten.

The rest of this post is going to be a simple cut and paste of the press release, but it seemed to me appropriate to report this given the amount of interest yesterday’s Fare Review report generated

Price Index of Public Transportation Around The World

2017 Study Reveals The Steep Price Differences For Commuters

  • Londoners pay the most for monthly transport ($153.58), 136.91% more than New Yorkers ($112.18)

  • Residents of Tokyo ($90.58), Berlin ($86.48), Paris ($74.74), and Madrid ($58.29) pay more reasonable commuter fares  

  • Prague ($21.73) and Bucharest ($14.27) are the most affordable European capital cities for public transport

Berlin, Germany, 18/01/2017 – Online moving platform Movinga know that after the cost of housing, food and transport are the two most relevant expenses to take into account when relocating. As part of the 2017 Relocation Price Index, a study detailing the costs associated with relocating to some of the world’s most in demand cities, Movinga also observed the cost of transportation around the world in 89 cities. The full Price Index of Public Transport cities can be found at the base of this press release.

The data was taken from all official transport offices within each city, using the cost of a monthly ticket within the major travel zones to standardise the results. The findings place London, UK as the most expensive city to use public transport at $153.58 and Cairo, Egypt as the most affordable city at $6.50 for a monthly ticket.

See here for the full methodology and results of the study.

The table below outlines the top 15 most expensive cities for public transport:

Eng-Int-USD.png

The study demonstrates the significant price difference for citizens of each city. This research will be useful for those considering their ideal city to relocate to, either temporarily for work or on a more permanent basis.

Transport costs were taken from all transportation companies in noted cities. Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) was not applied, in order to keep the data relevant from a local perspective. Data correct on 20th January 2017. Currency conversions calculated on 20th January 2017. Small differences in costs may exist due to recently fluctuating markets.

###

Publishers are allowed to publish this data and graphics but we kindly ask that you give credit and link to the source. For further enquiries do not hesitate to reply to this email.

About Movinga: Movinga (www.movinga.de/en) is Europe’s leading online provider of moving services. Utilising intelligent algorithms as well as a large network of local partner companies, the tech company is modernising the moving sector. Movinga customers value the simple booking process and high quality standards. Partner moving companies profit from efficient customer acquisition, disposition and invoicing. Movinga was founded in Berlin in January 2015 and is currently active in Germany and France. The management team consists of the experienced scale-up managers Finn Hänsel, Christoph Müller-Gruntrum and Jochen Cassel.

Monthly Transport Costs Around The World In £

#

City

MT

#

City

MT

#

City

MT

1

Cairo, Egypt

$6.50

31

Austin, USA

$39.74

61

San Francisco, USA

$67.40

2

Hanoi, Vietnam

$8.65

32

Lagos, Nigeria

$41.30

62

Munich, Germany

$68.33

3

Jakarta, Indonesia

$11.07

33

Santiago, Chile

$47.61

63

Essen, Germany

$69.40

4

Tunis, Tunisia

$13.01

34

Toulouse, France

$49.11

64

Singapore, Singapore

$69.81

5

Bucharest, Romania

$14.27

35

Seoul, South Korea

$49.26

65

Leipzig, Deutschland

$71.53

6

Mexico City, Mexico

$15.33

36

Vienna, Austria

$51.25

66

Mannheim, Deutschland

$72.07

7

Buenos Aires, Argentina

$17.07

37

Strasbourg, France

$51.78

67

Braunschweig, Deutschland

$74.74

8

Bangalore, India

$17.32

38

Brussels, Belgium

$52.32

68

Düsseldorf, Deutschland

$74.74

9

Medellin, Colombia

$19.89

39

Lille, France

$52.85

69

Paris, France

$74.74

10

Prague, Czech Republic

$21.73

40

Montpellier, France

$53.38

70

Oslo, Norway

$81.49

11

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

$23.05

41

Riga, Latvia

$53.38

71

Zurich, Switzerland

$83.90

12

Moscow, Russia

$23.97

42

Istanbul, Turkey

$54.66

72

Stuttgart, Germany

$85.41

13

Tallinn, Estonia

$24.56

43

Grenoble, France

$54.88

73

Berlin, Germany

$86.48

14

Sofia, Bulgaria

$27.32

44

Sao Paulo, Brazil

$55.24

74

Stockholm, Sweden

$86.75

15

Warsaw, Poland

$27.45

45

Barcelona, Spain

$55.52

75

Hamburg, Germany

$89.68

16

Bogota, Colombia

$27.60

46

Hong Kong, Hong Kong

$55.81

76

Tokyo, Japan

$90.58

17

Beijing, China

$27.97

47

Helsinki, Finland

$55.95

77

Frankfurt am Main, Germany

$91.82

18

Shanghai, China

$28.67

48

Rouen, France

$56.59

78

Amsterdam, Netherlands

$93.42

19

Johannesburg, South Africa

$30.74

49

Copenhagen, Denmark

$57.40

79

Auckland, New Zealand

$95.28

20

Athens, Greece

$32.03

50

Madrid, Spain

$58.29

80

Seattle, USA

$95.38

21

Bordeaux, France

$32.03

51

Manchester, UK

$59.07

81

Luanda, Angola

$95.89

22

Nice, France

$33.10

52

Karlsruhe, Deutschland

$60.86

82

Cologne, Germany

$96.09

23

Toulon, France

$33.10

53

Tel Aviv, Israel

$60.86

83

Los Angeles, USA

$96.29

24

Marseille, France

$33.20

54

Hannover, Germany

$62.35

84

Melbourne, Australia

$99.55

25

Budapest, Hungary

$33.28

55

Dubai, UAE

$62.94

85

Toronto, Canada

$103.07

26

Bangkok, Thailand

$34.00

56

Dresden, Deutschland

$62.99

86

New York, USA

$112.18

27

Dijon, France

$37.37

57

Bremen, Deutschland

$64.06

87

Sydney, Australia

$116.26

28

Milan, Italy

$37.37

58

Lyon, France

$64.06

88

Dublin, Ireland

$128.12

29

Lisbon, Portugal

$38.44

59

Vancouver, Canada

$66.26

89

London, UK

$153.58

30

Reims, France

$38.44

60

Nantes, France

$67.26

MT = Monthly Transport Costs

Original Table

Written by Stephen Rees

February 1, 2017 at 12:34 pm

Transit Fare Review Stakeholder Forum

with 8 comments

I attended the second forum at the Translink headquarters on Monday. Somehow I seem to have missed the whole phase 1 of this project. However you can always go to the translink website and catch up.

Before the meeting we were sent the Phase 2 Discussion Guide which included the following

Learn more by reading the discussion guide or watching our online videos. Then let us know what you think by taking the survey and participating in our online discussion forum, which will be open between January 30 and February 17, 2017. You can find all of this at

translink.ca/farereview.

The guide sets out the different types of fares that were considered during Phase 1 but did not report what was heard in the first phase. It does summarise the winners and losers in each of the scenarios that were examined. There is also this diagram which shows what happened when the mid-day discount was ended

This example shows how a simple fare policy change can have a major impact on system costs, crowding and passenger comfort.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-12-39-10-pm

This is the first time I have ever seen anything as official as this which admits that the decision was wrong. Full disclosure, I was at the time a relatively new employee at BC Transit. I was not by any means unfamiliar with transit fares policy and how it can be evaluated, but what astonished me at the time was how few people with whom I was working seemed to understand some simple, basic principles. I had, however, got used to the response I heard about how I was new and therefore could not possibly expect to understand how this system worked.

I would ask you to take note that there is nothing at all on either axis of this graph to show what is being displayed. Time of day is not to hard to interpolate, but the ridership top and bottom does need some indication of value, I think.

Terms of Reference

Project Background

The Transit Fare Review is a comprehensive review of Metro Vancouver’s fare structure that aims to recommend fare policy changes that will increase transit ridership by delivering a better customer experience and improving system efficiency today and into the future. It is comprised of four phases: Phase 1 (Discover), Phase 2 (Define), Phase 3 (Develop), Phase 4 (Deliver) running through to 2018.

Responsibilities

TransLink will:

1. Consider the feedback received through the Stakeholder Forums as advice when making decisions, and

2. Will report back on how the feedback contributed to the decision-making process.

Stakeholder representatives will:

1. Provide TransLink with feedback that reflects the perspective of their organization or constituents to better inform the overall decision-making for the development of the plan, and

2. Participate in the Stakeholder Forum meetings or send a delegate.

Composition and Membership

Each organization is asked to send one to two participants to appear on their behalf as their representative. TransLink is seeking a commitment from organizations for consistent participant attendance at all future Stakeholder Forums during Phases 2, 3 and 4, in order to ensure continuity.

Governance and Authority

All stakeholder feedback will be shared with TransLink staff and considered as advice.

Meeting Logistics

One to two stakeholder forums will be held per Phase. All Forums will be held over the next 24 months. Advance notice of Forums will be provided. Forums will be held during the day time at TransLink’s head office in New Westminster.

Reporting

The outcome of the Stakeholder Forums will be publicly reported at the end of each phase in a Summary Report. The Summary Report will be available online at www.translink.ca/farereview

I am going to record what I heard, but I would encourage you to go online and take the survey if this material is of interest to you.

The meeting was opened by a facilitator from Modus who emphasised that we were “not deciding anything” but rather reporting what we were “thinking and feeling”. Many of the people present were representing groups – “stakeholders”. A show of hands demonstrated that most of them had not been present at the first meeting – though there might have been someone else from their organisation.

img_1770

Only three factors in the fare structure were going to be discussed – distance travelled, time of travel and service type. The findings of the meeting are reported on line – but the first two were actually available at the end of the meeting. The goal was to recommend changes that would increase ridership, be simple to understand, fair and affordable. The structure of the fare system is supposed to contribute to the quality of service. It was emphasized that “the most economically vulnerable should have access to transit”.

Phase 1 of the exercise had shown that there was not a lot of support for the current three zone system.

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-10-56-10-am

Taken from the Phase 1 Summary Report

The rest of the meeting was taken up by working in small groups to look at more detailed questions relating to these issues. At each subquestion we were presented with a large poster on which to affix sticky notes with our comments and “votes” using coloured sticky dots.

img_1771

After each exercise there was an opportunity for discussion

At my table were a couple of representatives – one from the Metro Vancouver Alliance and the other from a union. They said that they felt the zone system- and fares by distance – are “erecting walls” and intended to “keep people in the poor part of town”. There is an issue of social isolation due to both cast and lack of access to services. Professor Robert Lindsay of the UBC Sauder School said that fare by distance was a better representation of the cost of providing service than zone system and should be preferred for “economic efficiency”. There were also comments that the concentric rings of the current zones do not reflect  current trip making which is now much less oriented towards commuting between the suburbs to Downtown Vancouver than when the zone system was created. It was suggested that if there were to be a new zonal system it ought to reflect the multiple  centres of activity across the region. It was also necessary to reflect the difference between the journey to work and other types of trip purposes.

I pointed out that one of the major differences was between the grid system of routes in the centre of the region versus the hub and spoke of the suburbs. Great concern was voiced about how the route structure in the suburbs imposes longer distances through indirect routings (to increase ridership pick ups) and transfers. I also expressed my reservation about recommending any finer gradation of fares while the Compass system on the bus does not include a “tap out”. Translink representatives assured me that this was a temporary problem that was about to be fixed.

One of the major concerns about the time of travel section was the need to reduce overcrowding  and pass ups. There is currently no incentive for people making one zone trips to change their time of travel to avoid congested periods – and this was made worse by making the bus system one zone all the time.

When looking at travel by service type it was pointed out that the current service provision generally does not allow for service duplication: for instance, there is no bus service over the Patullo Bridge, so SkyTrain is the only transit option. I also pointed out that there is no direct express bus service between Surrey and Coquitlam centres – both major regional centres – but only an indirect, double transfer SkyTrain ride.

When the results of the analysis of the voting on the distance and time questions were presented it became clear that the group I was part of was not representative of the rest of the meeting.

One thing that did become clear was that there was an almost complete absence of hard data to inform the people present of the results of their choices. But one thing that the Compass system ought to have provided by now was a wealth of information about how people in real life make choices about their travel. For example, the decision to make bus a one zone ride means that there is now a choice by fare for journeys to the North Shore. It is now a one zone bus ride or a two zone SeaBus trip. While we were all busy doing stated preference, there is a whole bunch of much more reliable revealed preference data. I was not all surprised to be told that Compass data is proving difficult to analyze, and that none could be made available due to privacy concerns that is currently preventing data collection on mixed mode “linked” trips. Equally since there is no tapout on the bus, distance travelled can only be interpolated from other sources.

While I do encourage you to go online and take the survey, I feel it is only fair to point out that the reason Translink chose to buy Compass was that it would make fare by distance feasible. Gates at SkyTrain stations could have been operated by the previous “mag swipe” fare media – which is what they use in New York City. A single zone system to this day.

Also worth reading Anthony Perl’s thoughts on the effect of distance based fares when there is no equivalent road pricing

 

Written by Stephen Rees

January 31, 2017 at 11:44 am

TransLink Titbits

with one comment

evergreen_line_map

1: Evergreen Line Bus Integration:

 

Bus route changes related to the Dec. 2 Evergreen Line opening will be introduced on Dec. 19. There are numerous changes to local routings along the line. Regional changes include:

    • Replace the 135 Burrard Stn-SFU route with 95 B-Line service along the same route. No word if all door boarding is part of the change.
    • Terminate the 160 Burrard Stn-Barnet Hwy-Port Coquitlam service at Kootenay Loop. It no longer will go downtown.
    • Eliminate the 97 B-line as it is mostly replaced by the Evergreen Line
    • Eliminate 190 Downtown-Barnet Hwy-Coquitlam service.
    • The N9 Broadway-Lougheed late evening service will be extended to Coquitlam Central, providing 24 hour service (a first for transit in Vancouver?)
    • Eliminate mid-day West Coast Express TrainBus service. It is replaced by the Evergreen Line and an extended route 701 from Coquitlam Central to Mission City.
  • Unrelated to the Evergreen Line but being implemented at the same time:
    • The 5/6 Davie/Robson becomes a circle route serving the West End, Pender St. and Yaletown. Public reaction to the Davie St. leg will be interesting as the route no longer serves downtown directly, something it has done since streetcar days, and its Expo Line connection becomes a walking transfer from Cambie St. and Dunsmuir St.  to Stadium-Chinatown Stn.
    • The C21/C23 Community Shuttle routes serving Davie St to Main St. Stn are replaced by  regular route 23 along Beach Ave. This is a frequent service route that improves service to an area that needs it.

2: Pattullo Bridge:

The Pattullo Bridge Replacement Project has completed Phase 2 of the Community Connections Consultation. There were 2,233 participant interactions in this phase – most of them through on-line feedback. TransLink has submitted the project to the province’s Environmental Assessment Office. More information at http://www.translink.ca/en/Plans-and-Projects/Roads-Bridges-and-Goods-Movement-Projects/Pattullo-Bridge/Pattullo-Bridge-Replacement.aspx.

3: Compass Card:

CTV News filed an FOI request with TransLink for correspondence with Cubic Corporation, the Compass Card vendor. Three TransLink letters were released but Cubic refused to release its responses. The letters document problems with the bus validators, fare gates and West Coast Express validators. TransLink stated that Cubic had not met the quality levels required for these items. There is no information on the resolution of the difficulties. However, the news item states that the difficulties led TransLink to implement the single fare zone for bus trips. It hints that TransLink is “revisioning [whatever that means] the tap-out on the bus” as the technology seems to be working satisfactorily now.

In an interview that is part of the CTV clip, TransLink’s Vice-President of Information, Lloyd Bauer, confirms that the Compass Card has increased fare revenues by 7% ($20 million in seven months).

This post courtesy of TransportActionBC 

Written by Stephen Rees

December 2, 2016 at 10:21 am

Posted in transit, Transportation

Tagged with ,

Tube Chat?

leave a comment »

tube-chat

CityLab recently posted an article “Why Londoners Bristled at the Invitation to Chat on the Tube

I know that I have written about this idea on here somewhere before, but it really seemed to me that Tanvi Misra missed a few very significant issues.

For a start the idea was dreamed up by an American “originally from a small town in Colorado”. If he had tried this idea in New York he would have got an even more irritated response. Life in big cities anywhere is going to be different from small towns.

When I commuted in Toronto, both on the TTC and GO, it really wasn’t that much different to commuting in London. Possibly slightly more polite, but no-one expected to chat. Victoria was quite different. The people on the bus I used – same bus, same times every day – soon regarded me as a “bus buddy” (I term I had never heard before). But then Victoria has one very big employer – the BC government – and most of these people were using the then new innovation of the annual government employee bus pass (paid for by payroll deductions). So right off the bat there was something in common. We were by no means as anonymous as most London commuters are.

That is not to say that there are not little social groups of regular commuters in big cities. I knew of several card “schools” on the Southern Region (as it was then known), for instance.

But the biggest mistake I think Jonathan Dunne made was using London Transport’s typography and house style in his badges and literature – including the famous roundel symbol.

chat-photo

Intentional or not, this made it look like something promoted by Transport for London.

Actually kudos to the kvetchers who made their ripostes look equally official.

I think a lot of people would resent this intrusion much more if they believed it was something to do with officialdom.  The clanger – “Keep Calm and Carry On” – has been equally widely misunderstood.

When I was a London commuter, I actually looked forward to the trip every day. It was a very useful interlude, back in the days before cell phones. You were literally out of reach. I used to read the Guardian every morning on the way to work – and a library book every evening on the way home. I chose routes and modes that were reasonably likely to provide me with a seat most days, or at least adequate space when standing.

I know that I wasn’t wearing a button that said “please respect my right to privacy” because that was widely understood, and didn’t need to be explained. Except to American tourists. We lived on one of the lines that terminated near Windsor Castle.

Subsequently I have discovered that I quite like talking to strangers. Though I really cannot bring myself to emulate Brandon Stanton.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 6, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Posted in transit

Double-decker buses could roll into Metro Vancouver

with one comment

This was the headline in the Surrey Leader last week.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond says double deckers are run by BC Transit in Victoria as well as his former employer Sound Transit on intercity routes between Everett and Seattle, where they’re popular with passengers.

Desmond said he believes they could have potential to add capacity in certain parts of Metro Vancouver, although they couldn’t run on routes with low obstructions.

“They would not fit through the Massey Tunnel, for example,” Desmond said.

Well the buses currently used in Victoria wouldn’t, but that is only because they are 4.4m “highbridge” buses.

BCT 9510

But that is the tallest buses get, and there are many places where these buses are too high. And the manufacturers do produce much lower double deck buses. Some of the more recent purchases for GO Transit in Toronto, for example.

DI410 - GO 8311 - Toronto, York University - 29 Sep 2016

Paul Bateson photo on flickr, used by permission

This is an Alexander Dennis Enviro500 Super Lo version at 3.91 metres high. The Massey Tunnel has a posted height limit of 4.1m: similarly there is a restriction on Highway 1 west of Abbotsford of 4.3m. So again for service on the express 555 from Langley to Braid Station, double deckers would provide much more seated accommodation. I would warn, however, that the seating currently in use on both Translink Express services and BC Transit double deckers is too close for comfort on longer distance services. Packing as many people as possible onto a bus may be good short term economics, but for passenger retention and more diversion from private cars, I think people of over 1.7m need to have adequate knee room when seated. Just because many airlines go for tight seat pitch is not a good example for other modes!

UPDATE

And just to show that there are many choices in low height double deckers, here is another from Italy built by the German maker Setra. The S341DT has a height of 4m and up to 93 seats.

Tiemme 2406 at Poggibonsi Station

And while we are on the subject of higher capacity buses I can think of some routes where a few of these would not go amiss

Hess Lightram 3 - TPG (Transports Publics Genevois) n°783

Geneva Public Transport Hess Lightram 3 on the airport route

Written by Stephen Rees

October 1, 2016 at 11:25 am

Posted in transit, Transportation

Tagged with ,

Granville Island 2040

with 6 comments

Granville Island

Photo by Alyson Hurt on Flickr 

I went this morning to a workshop called “Getting to and Moving Through Granville Island”. It is part of Granville Island 2040, “a planning initiative that will set out a comprehensive direction and dynamic vision for the island’s future” organised by CMHC and Granville Island. The session, facilitated by Bunt & Associates, collaboratively reviewed current infrastructure, mobility services and travel patterns as well as seeking ideas and opinions on critical transportation elements for the Island’s future. It was a group of about 20 “stakeholders” which included local residents’ associations, City of Vancouver staff, Translink, both of the ferry companies, the local business association, BEST, Modacity and Ocean concrete.

There had been a meeting the previous day dealing with land use, and there will be many more opportunities for people who are interested to get involved. You can even Instagram your idea with the hashtag #GI2040 – which I have already done. But there’s a lot more to this idea that I want to write about.

First of all I think it is very unfortunate that the process separates out transportation and land use, since I am convinced that these must be considered together: they are two sides of the same coin. Secondly the process centres around the vision for what people want to see by in 2040, and then there will be thought about how to achieve that. I think it is immediately apparent that CMHC has its own process for deciding how to replace Emily Carr University when it relocates to False Creek Flats. This long term vision has to assume that it sorted out, and that CMHC has achieved its own objective of seeing increased levels of activity on the Island.

The workshop started with a presentation by Bunt & Associates of some recent transportation data they have collected last month, compared to data collected on the same days in August 2005. I did not take notes, thinking that there might be a handout or perhaps material on the website. So I am forced to summarise the findings without any of the figures in front of me. There has been an increase in the number of people going to the Island, but a drop in the number of cars. The increases come from increased use of the ferries, pedestrians and cycling. They conducted cordon counts between noon and 6pm midweek and a Saturday and a very limited interview survey, to help identify where people came from, how many were in the group and how much they spent. Car occupancy has increased. The Island is now also on the itinerary of the Hop-on/Hop-off service which wasn’t the case ten years ago.

There were some very obvious weaknesses in the data. For instance, transit passengers were only counted at the cordon when they got off the #50 bus. It is my observation that many people walking into Granville Island have come from the bus stops at the southern end of Granville Bridge. While some of that “multi-mode” travel is apparent from the interview survey, it is not like a trip diary. There were also no counts in the evenings, when the use of Granville Island shifts considerably to the theatres and destination restaurants like Bridges and Sandbar.

There were the usual workshop activities of putting sticky notes on maps and talking in breakout groups, and some of the common ground was apparent early on. Reuse of the abandoned Historic Railway to connect to the mostly empty parking lots and Olympic Village station, for instance. By 2040 that may even extend to the tram envisioned for the Arbutus Corridor, and even if that can’t be achieved by then, the Greenway linkage to the Seawall was a favourite too. Currently while pedestrians and bikes have a few options, vehicles have only one, and I am relieved to report that no-one thought there should be more. In fact the traffic count shows that the current four lane access is excessive, and could be replaced by two lanes with the space better utilised by dedicated bike lanes, wider sidewalks and possibly a tram line.

The idea I want to examine in a bit more detail was popular with the transportation people, but might have some resistance from the “Islanders” i.e. the people who work there everyday. But I will get to that later.

Google Earth image

The need for a pedestrian bridge

There is a 50 meter channel between the east end of the island and the separated pedestrian and bike paths of the seawall. There is very little boat traffic into the pocket of False Creek: the main exception being people in kayaks and dragon boats using the docks south of the Community Centre.

My first thought was that the almost useless Canoe Bridge at the other end of False Creek could be relocated.

Canoe Bridge

But it is both too short (only 40 meters) and has that really ugly support in the middle. I also dislike the fact that the entrances onto the bridge are narrower than the middle, which seems to me to be utterly pointless. I also wonder about the flat underside, and whether an arched bridge might be better both operationally – for boats given rising sea levels – and aesthetically. My inspiration is from one of the newest bridges in Venice, Ponte Della Costituzione also known as Calatrava Bridge after its designer.

Ponte Della Costituzione

This is much too big for our location – 80 meter span and up to 17.7 meters wide in places. But you must admit it is very beautiful: in fact it well illustrates my dictum about a lot of architecture – it looks pretty but it doesn’t work very well. It has a lot of steps, some of them very steep, which makes it a barrier to people on bicycles (intentionally) and people with disabilities.

Actually bicycles aren’t permitted anywhere in Venice, but although this bridge might present a challenge, evidently not enough of a challenge, hence the presence of the local plod.

Ponte Della Costituzione

No, I don’t know how often they have to be there, but they did have quite a few folks to talk too while I was there.

The lack of accessibility meant that as an afterthought a suspended gondola was added

Ponte Della Costituzione

and, unsurprisingly, was out of order at the time of our visit. Wikipedia notes “The official budget for the project was €6.7 million, but actual costs have escalated significantly.”

However, I am pretty sure that someone can come up with a better design of a bridge for the 50m gap, and a way of ensuring that it is not a cycle freeway, but a gentle stroll for pedestrians. The reason is not that I am anti-cyclist, merely tired of the constant aggravation of the “shared space” on the seawall, which the City is now dealing with. It is also essential to the mandate of Granville Island 2040 that none of the Island becomes a through route to anywhere. One of the reasons that mixed use and shared space has worked so well here is that the Island is the destination. It is an exercise then in placemaking, not making through movement faster or more convenient. Indeed unlike so many places in Vancouver which now advertise “this site may have an antiloitering device in place” we must come up with lots of ideas to implement loitering devices – things to encourage people to linger. Or as Brent Toderian likes to call them “sticky places”.

There is one such place now at what would become the landing place of the new bridge. Ron Basford Park is one of the few quiet places on the Island, where people who work there seek peace: somewhere to have a picnic lunch or breastfeed their babies. It is the end of the Island and there is a footpath around its perimeter. I think it is quite possible to design the end of the proposed pedestrian bridge to ensure that this peace is preserved. If the bridge is used as way to get people on bicycles on and off the Island more quickly, there will be considerable conflicts at both ends. But Ron Basford park is also home to amphitheatres: there are concerts and all kinds of activities at other times.  So the Granville Island management is going to have to display some pretty nifty consultation expertise here.

Granville Island is a unique place. It seems to defy all reason and logic, but it undeniably is very successful as a destination, and whatever happens will need to preserve as much of the place’s eccentricity as possible. Or even enhance it.

As Dale Bracewell remarked at the end of the session, Granville Island actually needs several transportation plans for different times of day, days of the week and times of the year. In the summer, the Island attracts at least half of its users from the rest of Canada and other countries – people who probably only visit the Island once. In the winter, the Island – and its market in particular – is the place that most people in the vicinity rely on for groceries. As the residents’ association rep pointed out, they are the people who keep the market going in the winter. There will be further traffic counts later on in the year, to measure the different pattern that emerges when tourists are a less significant part of the mix. And, of course, there will need to be some reflection of what happens once the University leaves: there are around a thousand students now, plus staff and support workers.

There were some hints about how the land use will change. The buildings underneath the bridge, currently used as parkades, are likely to be repurposed. The area at the west end of the Island, currently where there is free parking for the Public Market, will likely see reuse that better utilises its location. But all of this depends on getting more viable choices for transit. So the other really important idea is the installation of elevators up to the bridge deck with new bus stops. Sadly, the City is still wedded to the notion of a centre median greenway – which is utterly daft. The reason people walk over the bridge is the view. No-one is going to want to walk a long way across the Island and the creek with no view other than four lanes of fast moving cars!

Written by Stephen Rees

September 9, 2016 at 6:23 pm