October 30, 2013

City Conversation: Conflicted Space? Robson Square, Viva Vancouver and the #5 Robson Bus

From SFU Public Square’s City Conversations:
Conflicted Space?  Robson Square, Viva Vancouver and the #5 Robson Bus
For two years, the block of Robson Street in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery has been closed to traffic during the summer, becoming the popular Viva Vancouver pedestrian space. A consequence is that the #5 Robson bus is rerouted by three blocks. Few realize that this seemingly minor change is said to affect much of the downtown transit network. Some people want to close Robson Square year round. Must we choose between efficient public transit and enjoyable public space, or is there a way to accommodate both?
Starting the conversation are Lon LaClaire, Manager of Strategic Transportation Planning for the City of Vancouver, and Brian Mills, TransLink’s Director of Service and Infrastructure Planning. We’ve also invited a representative of the Vancouver Public Space Network. Then it’s your turn to question, comment, share your opinion.
When: Thursday, November 7, 2013
Time: 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Location: Room 1600, SFU Vancouver at Harbour Centre
Cost: Free

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  1. There is absolutely no conflicting space behind VAG. There are conflicting opinions!

    I am told OAP’s cannot make their doc appts because their bus is blocked even though Handydart is available door to door.

    What is lacking is . . .


    . . . a ceremonial place we can respect and enjoy in place of that grey concrete hulk, its horrendous, out-of-scale sky-lite slipping-into-the-street making us unhappy every time the Sun goes in.

    Oh and BTW we could use a welcoming green space at pedestrian level instead of an elevated pie-in-the-sky planter no one is aware of!

  2. Roger: If you haven’t booked HandyDart well in advance you aren’t going anywhere.

    I don’t deny that Vancouver lacks a great public space, but your proposal seems to be based mostly on hatred of the current design. I see no reason to send the #5 on an illogical and inefficient bypass route when many of the great city squares in Europe have trams running through them. People and transit can co-exist.

    We could get an even larger public space and rejuvenate a huge chunk of real estate currently covered by asphalt and concrete by instead focusing on the new location for the art gallery. We could close Cambie street south of the QE Theatre, green the existing plaza next to the theatre, tear out the building occupied by the Media Club and extend the plaza all the way to Beatty Street. It would yield a massive public space larger than the entire block bounded by Hornby, Robson, Howe and Smythe. The new space would sit adjacent to three significant cultural institutions: library, art gallery and theatre and be just 2 blocks from both major sports facilities.

    The rest of that block of Cambie would become a quiet cul-de-sac for deliveries and access to the QE Theatre parking garage further enhancing the pedestrian experience in the area.

    Alternatively the plaza could be extended over the street (it’s already elevated relative to Cambie) and form the green roof of a low-rise building on the adjacent block. Perhaps the art gallery could occupy the ground floor of the entire city block with the civic plaza on the roof of the Georgia side and a tower (new city hall?) on the Dunsmuir side.

    1. David @ # Hatred? I haven’t got an ounce of hatred in me. Disgust is a better feeling. What concerns me more are the sycophantic hangers on who fall for the dirge: no sense of public space, no colour, no joy of being alive.

      I don’t deny that Vancouver lacks a great public space . . . and, David, central location means everything. QE plaza NOT! VPL NOT!

      As for Handydart: being an OAP myself I have tried it and given up but I would rather have West End OAP’s wait a few minutes than have their convenience screw up a great potential downtown Vancouver focal point.

      1. I don’t believe your feelings of disgust are shared by most Vancouverites.

        As always the city is changing. Had a great public square been built in the 1920s it would have been located near Carnegie Library and Pantages Theatre. In the 1930s it would have been at the site of Pigeon Park. In the 1950s it would have been an expansion of Victory Square. How wise would those choices have looked today?

        Yaletown and False Creek are the new places to be. They’re already home to tens of thousands and there are new towers rising daily bringing new residents and workers. The addition of the art gallery and one more destination would solidify Larwill Park as a centre of great importance. Calm traffic or build above it, add landscaping, public art, food and outdoor performance space, find a use for the old post office that has more than 1 molecule of character and the area would come alive.

        If nothing else it would be a glorious addition to an area remembered by baby boomers as the bus depot, but now best known for a public gathering gone terribly wrong.

        We can agree to disagree on Robson Square and the need for a bus that goes straight through to Stadium Station.

        1. David I get your list but . . .
          Victory Square NOT because of the slope. Back in the early sixties when we were beating up on the Doukabhors they came to town to protest. Hundreds of them huddled around the cenotaph because of the slope.
          Pigeon Park is arguable one of the most successful place in town but it ain’t ceremonial material because of the geometry.

          I dunno about the rest of your list. I came here in 1951 and Courthouse Square, even then, was it!

  3. Good point David on the history of place, and yes Robson square is fading away fast as a schelling point, and the mean reason is… its location away of main transportation nodes.

    The idea to close Cambie has no merit…
    on the entirety of 3 blocks (CBC, QE theater, and VCC), you have a full dull urban environment: loading dock, garage…that make a pedestrian place a non starter…..

    Looks at one block east: Beatty is way more interesting (the Drill Hall make an ideal building with which the new VAG can converse…dull thing you will see, are just parking structure ending their life like at Beatty#Pender and the larwill park), it has a funtain at pedestrain (Stadium station), and stadium draining lot of crowd…what justify Beatty to be already routinely closed to Traffic.

    the idea to close Cambie, or even section, of it to Traffic (to make it pedestrian) is in fact dumb…
    so it is what the city want, and why that? because it is engaged in a war on buses:

    Cambie is basically the only street where Transit can pass (imagine a down town loop #5 extended to Stadium, and #6 to Yaletown) Beatty doesn’t provide access to Pacific , Hamilton is too narrow…

    succesfull cities are built around their transportation network, not the reverse…
    successful place are build around successfull (because efficient) transit, and not the reverse.

  4. A list of ideas are in the linked pdf. The idea is to satisfy both aims – improved public space and improved transit – as much as possible under the circumstances.


    Note: put Granville in place of Howe/Seymour if you think the Granville Mall should be open to buses at least 99% of the time and you support diesel artics on the Granville Mall.

    I’m not able to make mid-day events unfortunately.

  5. Beaubourg slopes like Cambie? Yu godda be kiddin’. When was the last time you were there?

    You remind me of that guy, painted white, sitting on Beaubourg like a statue, who comes to life when you approach to scare the hell out of you.

    You and your 1950’s prejudices care the hell out of me.

  6. I have passed by the Convention center today, it was Gil Penalosa,there showing lot of wonderful pedestrian place, full of people and Transit, reminding me this:

    It was basically the closing message of the Gil presentation:
    invest first in Walk and Transit (cycling is nice, but walk and transit are more importatnt).

    It was lot of “important” people in the audience, hope they will get the message.

    Roger, regarding the slope of Place Beaubourg…probably the busker has scared you too much, you don’t remember it…unless you effectively refer to 1950, when it was at this time a parking lot.
    Beaubourg date from 1977 and I like it…