October 6, 2014

Castro widens its sidewalks – 6

We’ve been following the progress on San Francisco’s Castro Street as they widen the sidewalks – part of an overall urban-design plan.  Including the just-added trees (gingko, I believe) :


CT 1

CT 2


By comparison, Robson:



And Denman:


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  1. WRT Robson – that’s a bit harsh.
    The City has addressed sidewalk congestion by widening sidewalks in other areas where redevelopment has occurred. The pic shown is at the Manhattan Building, which won’t be demolished any time soon.
    And unlike the Castro, each of Robson & Denman only have one travelled lane of traffic each way, so widening the sidewalk into the street (rather than onto private property upon redevelopment) would mean a net loss in curbside parking (which did not significantly happen at the Castro redevelopment based on plans you previously posted).
    So it just ends up being a quirk of the street – and some would say the close quarters adds “character”.

    1. Guest – I agree with you. Plus, COV Engineering requires a 7′ “Building Line” for new developments on Robson, to increase the long-term street ROW from 66′ to 80′ (66 +7+ 7 = 80).The 1000 block North side shows this ultimate sidewalk width.

  2. PS – don’t those pics of teh congested Robson and Denman sidewalks look more “bustling” and “alive” than the pics of the Castro?

  3. The sidewalks on Denman are just too narrow. Particularly in summer. One scheme I’ve floated here is to have the curb lane be multiple use. In winter it would be a parking driving lane, but in summer it would be annexed to the sidewalk. The entire ROW would probably have to be one level from building front to building front with the different zones separated by Bollards that could be moved in or out.

  4. Maybe time to look at what Europe did in the late 70s / early 80s. Several options:
    a) Widen sidewalks while keeping most parking and traffic lanes: If the trees are not too big to be moved, replace parking lane with 2-car parking bays, capped with space for trees, street signs, meters, bike parking, etc. Removes some parking and ‘widens’ the sidewalk by removing all the obstacles.
    b) Simply do away with parking. There is lots of unused garage space in downtown. If there is really no nearby spare parking capacity and the business case is good (BIG if), tag public parking onto the next re-develoment in the area.
    c) Forget about widening sidewalks on Robson, simply ban cars and turn it into a pedestrian street. If there is absolutely no other way to meet parking demand, cut and cover to put in parking at either end. That’s how many pedestrian areas in Europe were built.

    1. While Robson would be a better pedestrian mall than Granville, there has already been an uproar with the summertime closure of Robson St. at Robson Square and its impact on bus routes, let alone closure of the shopping blocks to the west.
      I suspect the same would apply to Denman (and Davie).
      If Denman is largely a local neighbourhood centre, perhaps it could bear parking removed from one side of the street to widen the sidewalks a bit.

      1. Enhancing a street for pedestrian use doesn’t have to mean removing transit. The two manage to co-exist in many great public spaces in Europe.
        In the longer term Robson should be re-developed with a mind to providing access to parking structures from other streets allowing the roadway to be narrowed to just the two lanes needed for the bus. Doing that would allow massively wider sidewalks without making every building on the street 7 feet shallower.
        I think widening the street by making shallower buildings is a huge mistake. On Vancouver’s widest streets, the opposite should be done: a lane of pavement should be converted to pedestrian space and the building lines moved forward to narrow the street. Grand, wide streets with 6 lanes for moving cars are, in almost every case, unwarranted and unwanted in an urban centre.

      2. And yet those metered parking spaces are mostly full, indicating the businesses depend on outside customers to help survive. And also that the City, which is addicted to parking revenue, is getting its cut. Let us also remember those images are from the height of summer and not the long wet fallwintersping which dampens foot traffic a lot on both streets. In my opinion too many urban commentators gloss over Vancouver’s wet climate and its influence on street life. What infrastructure is practical to build and use, if its only good for 5 months of the year?

        1. And yet, there are lots of empty off-street spaces even at peak times. Indicating that cutting on-street spaces on a couple of streets can easily be absorbed off-street. At some loss of convenience for drivers. And some of the movement from on-street to off-street parking will help better utilize city owned off-street supply, so the city will recoup some of the lost revenue you worry about.
          Does anyone know if there are newer studies than this 2009 one out there?

        2. I think most people would agree that Robson currently doesn’t work well for anyone. Pedestrians can frequently move faster than the #5 bus thanks in large part to drivers looking for, entering and exiting parking spaces. I think there’s merit in re-directing traffic to some strategically located off-street parking facilities, getting the buses moving and making room on the sidewalks for tables, benches and umbrellas. Cyclists would no longer have to thread their way between vehicles and bike parking would no longer take space from the pedestrian realm.

  5. Big improvement! Especially the Ginkgo.
    Re Davie Street, there’s still the problem of 80′ r-o-w in S.F. vs 66′ in Vancouver. Bye-bye parking on Davie Street? It would be easier to do on Robson Street, but there’ll be lots of push-back from the BIAs regardless.

  6. Cambie Village is a classic example – while people may think of it as a “neighbourhood village” – the reality is that it heavily depends on out-of-neighbourhood shoppers and restaurant patrons for business – that’s one of the reasons why it suffered so much during Canada Line construction – the lack of parking.
    And the neighbourhood patrons weren’t enough to make ends meet….

  7. Agree with Jeffrey and Guest above (Guest: who Are you??)
    There is clearly too much land devoted to road space in most urban places. However, in commercial districts my personal preference would be to reduce the travel space and not (most of) the parking space, since the curbside – or near curbside – parking provides so many tangible benefits. These include business support and convenience, buffering the pedestrian space from moving traffic, and traffic taming as well. Corner extensions, parklets and other amenities can certainly be accommodated in the parking space as wanted and needed.