June 25, 2012

Extraordinary Fact: 2010 downtown traffic volumes = 1965

City transportation engineer Steve Brown found a graph from a 1976 report that shows the number of vehicles entering and leaving downtown for 1960 and 1976.

When I plot our current volumes on this, it is slightly higher than 1960 and lower than 1976. So I approximated a date of 1965 that would be similar volumes for vehicles entering the downtown.



The background chart (black lines) is from the 1976 report on Transportation.  The volumes I added (green and brown lines) are from our 2010 fall screenline count of the downtown, October 2010.

Conclusion: there is about the same amount of traffic in Downtown Vancouver (with more than double the population and twice the jobs) as there was in 1965.

Here’s what Vancouver looked like then (from bizzy63’s photostream).

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  1. Remeber that vehicle trips can’t be looked at in isolation…
    There is probably a lot more transit into the downtown now, than there was back in 1965.
    The 1976 line would reflect traffic before SkyTrain.

    1. Post

      Exactly the point. Vehicle trips are a function of other modes, land-use, economics, etc. Which makes it so odd that critics of change have a model rooted in the 1950s – that business viability depends on vehicle flow, access and parking.

      1. Probably because it’s in their self-interest to think of things that way – i.e.oppose anything that could have a negative impact (or unknown change).

        People tend to think about how things impact them directly (i.e. personally) – rather than over a wider scope (all of society, the city or the region). Planners, administrators (and academics) tend to approach things over the wider scope. The two are at cross-interests.

  2. My 1968 ‘Downtown Vancouver’ report says there were 88,000 jobs Downtown in 1965 – and there are most likely around 170,000 today, so yes, the jobs have effectively doubled. The population has risen from under 45,000 to 99,000 in 2011, and no doubt more today, so the residents have more than doubled. That no doubt helps explain why there are no more cars driving into the Downtown today. The City’s website has a graphic for how the 21,600 Downtown residents who also work Downtown got to work in 2006 – 74% of them walked to work.

  3. There’s less people driving to downtown because all the people and business that were determined to stay in their cars have simply migrated to the suburbs.

    It’s nice to look at downtown in a bubble if you look at the stats as a region the drive to get people out of their cars and into dense nodes has been an utter failure.