January 8, 2016

When is an island not an island?

… when its mostly a carpark on a peninsula.
I haven’t been in Vancouver for that long now, which is great in that I get to have a dispassionate view of the world, and can see things I wouldn’t be able to if I knew living only Vancouver. Sometimes though, there are things that just don’t make sense, and I can’t find anything that explains them.
I posted a mention to Granville island this morning – how I think its a bit criminal that half of its buildings are used for cars, and not people.
One of the stories I have heard over and over since I got to Vancouver is the tale of the Bombardier tram sent over from Brussels for the Olympics to run between Main Street and Granville Island.
I’ve also heard many times that there is a historic tram at the tram museum near the Olympic Village Station, that doesn’t run for want of something like $40k per year.
See: Losing the Vancouver Historic Streetcar

Seriously Vancouver, no-one can afford $40k to sponsor a highly ecomental mode of transit which would enable a healthy reduction of cars to one of the city’s coolest places?
(I also think Robson Street should be Robsonsstraße and be a pedestrian street … THEN the Arc video might start to make sense! … when I drive, I avoid the street like the plague, because it’s impossible to traverse, and would never hope to find parking on it … does anyone actually do either of these? Making it a pedestrian street is one of those ‘Shoulders of Giants‘ things – it works great elsewhere, and would here also.)

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  1. Indeed Robson should be a pedestrian street all the way from Stadium to Stanley Park, starting at least a few blocks from Seymour to Bute, it would be a major hit with increased traffic & shopping, as parking is nearby and major buses and trains serve it !
    Granville Island ON THE OTHER HAND is not served well by major buses or a train and as such would lose lots of visitors ! Hence the many parking spots. The only way this would fly is with a new pedestrian bridge from across Yaketwon station or a train under Granville or Burrard with a stop within walking distance . WR go there frequently, usually walking from UBC , and the too many cars annoy me too BUT: merchants would lose half their revenue if parking were eliminated without rapid transit in walking distance. Cute little ferry boats, a very slow tram modeled after a 1920’s mode of transportation or a slow bus do not qualify here as acceptable transportation in my ( humble ) opinion,
    Unclear to me why we need two very high bridges in the year 2016
    ( Burrard , Granville) One would suffice and certainly there are no more commercial boats that are very high in False Creek. Sailboats could be accommodated with a bridge that opens once in a while or disallowed / inconvenienced east of Granville altogether ( they had to lower their mast to pass, easily doable by extending or unhooking the front line that holds the mast in place) Major opportunity indeed here for less cars BUT: we need better access via rapid transit that doesn’t exist today. A low per and bike friendly bridge from Yaletown Canada Line Station would accomplish it.

  2. Robson Street as a pedestrian street would be great for pedestrians and visitors–not so great for West Enders. It would throw all the traffic onto parallel streets, none of which (except for W. Georgia) are built for that. Nelson and Alberni already have too much traffic; Harrow and Barclay are narrow and provide much needed parking for residents and visitors. Where would you re-route the Robson bus? It’s already a tremendous pain when it’s re-routed up Burrard in the summer. Would you run it along W. Georgia when locals want to shop and dine on Robson? Have you ever walked up the hill from W. Georgia to Robson in the pouring rain with your arms full of parcels? Not pleasant or easy.

    1. Post

      The thing is, I wonder how many cars actually use Robson, vs circle the block looking for parking, vs cruising along it. Its entirely possible the traffic numbers would be able to be accommodated by adjacent streets … or not … data required to say either way.
      As for busses … Granville doesn’t work too badly with extra wide sidewalks and a discreet path down the middle for busses … this might work on Robson too – there are plenty of pedestrian streets and plazas in Europe which also accomodate transit.
      As for the parcels, google ‘urban umbrella’ and look at photos … here’s one: http://renovatingnyc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/urban-umbrella-slide-3.jpg … I remember looking out my window at a square in Grenoble and seeing the entire plaza covered with umbrellas mounted on poles, when the weather became nice, all the umbrellas went away and everyone could bask in the sun.
      One of the attractive features of BIG’s tower is the use of Granville bridge as a public space … it would take little to do the same to Robson street, and make it a similarly active space.
      Given that the modal share of west end pedestrians is like 60%, I doubt you’d have much disappointment at having a nicer street to walk on.

      1. I agree on the need for traffic data, but if you have ever stood at the corner of Robson and Denman watching cars trying to turn on to Denman to go over the Lions Gate Bridge you’d know there is a lot of traffic on Robson. The idea of turning Robson into a Granville Street-like mall is interesting, but Granville was dead for 30 or so years after it was closed to traffic. It has really only started to rebound in the last 10. I suspect the effect on Robson would be worse given that it lacks the anchors (Bay, Eatons/Sears/Nordstrom’s) and given the increadingly high rents. Anyway it’s an interesting new look at things. Happy Friday.

        1. I was on Granville for the first time last Friday around 10pm. I was depressed at how squalid it was, with a abundant litter and a little homeless village outside the shuttered Granville 7. If that’s a rebound, I’d hate to see the decline.

  3. The Downtown Streetcar [system] doesn’t seem to be on Vision Vancouver’s radar.
    Agreed, that you’d think that a corporate sponsorship could easily be found to run the heritage streetcar during the summer months from Olympic Village Station. Just wrap it in a corporate logo.
    A corporate sponsor might even buy or lease a newer model streetcar for use on the line – it’s so short that one streetcar will probably be sufficient (during the Olympics, the demonstration tram ran slower than necessary and faster running with 1 tram could probably provide the same level of service).
    In the much longer term, if (when) the Arbutus line is used for a secondary north-south rapid transit line, Granville Island should have a station on that line.
    PS – that’s one of the reasons that I thought TransLink’s “Combination 1” was okay – it provided good LRT connections to Granville Island from the Expo Line, Millennium Line and Canada Line.

    1. A street level LRT through high density neighborhoods is a dumb idea as it is too disruptive to car traffic and takes far too much space. Look no further than the mess they created in Edmonton with the Valley Line to NAIT or the LRT crossing at UofA, or the desasterous 7th Avenue dead zone in downtown Calgary.
      Bury it, and have a per/bike/shopping area above .
      It may make sense west of Alma with lower density or in East-Surrey / Langley with lower density but even then traffic disruptions will be brutal.
      Consider elevating it cheaply if this http://www.skytran.us ever takes off, bury it or use dedicated bus lanes. LRTs on dense areas are dumb dumb idea.
      False Creek needs two more lower level ped / bike crossings. We value 100 sailboats this much more than a million walkers / bikers ? Then Granville Island could be car free and have more housing., especially if a train under Burrard will materialize to 41st connecting with UBC loop under 41st but likely we will not see this before 2065.

      1. You argue for less car use and then complain about anything that makes car use less convenient. Something about having cake and eating it comes to mind.

  4. As our welcome guest above tells us via the highly progressive and very close to City Hall Vancouver Observer, even raising the cost of parking killed business for those on Granville Island. Removing the cars would kill it far more. Granville Island is designed as a multi-purpose section of the city and it works very well as it is. One of the primary components of the island is the many artists and crafts studios. They need vehicle access for large and heavy items. As does the clientele of the arts supply store. Then there’s the hotel and their guests and the working boatyards, the cement plant, etc., etc.
    The island works very well for everyone as it is. No wonder it’s the top tourist destination in the city.
    Stopping the casual vehicle access will kill the retail, at the very least. Gradually, other businesses and artists would leave because daily work would become too much of a hassle.
    Then the empty spaces will become covered in condos.

    1. Not only top tourism destination in the city, it is Canada’s 2nd most visited place, after Niagara Falls. Annually, GR gets about the same number of visitors as the entire Canada Parks system.
      The most unfortunate feature is it’s co-op-like system of supporting small peripheral operations, often by one person, which are glorified hobbies rather than viable businesses, which would be growing, innovating and employing. There’s a lot of dead wood and dead space there.

  5. It needs to be able to be accessed by car but that is not the same thing as being able to drive down every single one of it’s streets. There could be a parkade somewhere with the road going to that and then people walk from there. Motor vehicle access to the rest of the island could be only deliveries, concrete trucks and boat launching.
    One of the attractions of the island is that it’s supposedly a nifty pedestrian area but it really isn’t and that’s because of the motor vehicles taking up so much space. If there was a single loop, say, it would work out better. Motor vehicles currently dominate on the island but they don’t even have a good time despite that.
    Access by other modes need to be improved. Currently to walk or cycle to get to the island is nice along the Seawall but then when you get to the island, the four places you can do it are inadequate (and two seem to be trying to even discourage cycling on.), there are awkward places where the two modes are put into conflict and no way to get through. You’re basically forced to go against the rules to get anywhere. Walking is nice in places but again, to get anywhere is odd. Without curbs you’re given the illusion that it’s a pedestrian space but then there is a stream of cars running through it.
    The island needs a complete rethinking and transportation redesign.

  6. Over 10 million people visiting Granville Island annually.
    Something must be right.
    Ian Robertson, January 7, 2016
    “Finally, if something is a success, can we please accept it as such … just please, take it at face value as a ‘good’, and please stop treating it as a failure, or a reason to fight.”
    Granville Island is the greatest and most successful tourist attraction. It is well loved and patronized by locals, including children and the elderly, etc. I shopped there this week as many of you probably did too.
    I agree with Ian, and the overwhelming majority, take it at face value as ‘good’, No. 1 good.

    1. Post

      I would say ‘Touche’ if I was fighting Granville Island or treating as a failure … I was and am neither.
      It is extraordinarily successful, but not an unqualified success.
      The context of my statement was that of looking at what others do well, and instead of doing something different, emulating the success of others.
      The thing is, those other places don’t stand still, they look to take what works and then look make it better.
      I have seen numerous close calls between cars and pedestrians on Granville Island, and I know many people who seldom go there because they either doubt they can find parking, or they find it too busy.
      You won’t find any argument from me to say close the island off to cars entirely, but a strong one to manage them better, give alternatives to people so they don’t have to drive, and give an alternative to parking on the island itself. There are many who would be well served by an increase in the amount of retail and studio space on the island, even if the Emily Carr space becomes available for such.
      I can accept something as a success and still see ways to make it better. You are entirely correct that “something is right” about the place … that doesn’t mean everything is. The original iphone was great, but Steve Jobs still wanted to make it better, but I take it you never wanted to upgrade yours?

  7. When the art and design school leaves there will be plenty more space for artists studios. Joel Berman’s glass studio has gone, there’s more space there, as well as the large parking lot to the north west next door. This could and probably will be developed. I’ve met people there many times for lunch at the hotel in mid summer with people everywhere and never had trouble parking for more than a couple of minutes. I shop there frequently, year round, and always easily find a spot, although on occasion it’s a paying place.
    Buildings will need updating or replacing. This will be done. Of the thousands of times I’ve been on the island I’ve never heard of a pedestrian being injured by a vehicle. Perhaps the close proximity of both sharpens the senses and lessens the accident rate, it certainly does in Rome or many other European cities. I don’t really like the sterility of Disneyesque curbs and sidewalks and all the lights for pedestrians. Feel as though I’m on a leash.
    The trial of the streetcar from Olympic Village station was well liked and well used. Someone plugged into city hall, or TransLink, should tell us what happened to that idea.
    Aside from that it should evolve with the same management style that has created this incredible Phoenix-like rise from dirty industrial to mega-people draw. That is, residential (house boats), theatrical, industrial, educational, crafts, commercial, hospitality, park, small retail, restaurant and cafe, artists studios, recreational, etc. All these pretty well in multiple forms with all modes of transport except air, rail and municipal bus.
    It is without a doubt an unqualified success.

    1. Eric – good points. I’ve heard that continual rent increases drove Joel Berman out to Annicis Island and his 4000sf studio still hasn’t been rented in what, over two years? Keeping successful enterprises like his should be just as high a priority as attracting new and untested ones.

      1. Glass is not my business but, over the past two years, that’s the second glass studio to move out of Vancouver to a ‘burb that I know of.

  8. I rarely go to Granville Island since it is so cycling unfriendly and is notoroious for bike theft. I have heard of people falling off their bikes when crossing the streetcar tracks.
    Note that the south False Creek seawall path will be upgraded soon to allow for safer cycling and walking. It would be awesome if cycling access to GI would be improved. There are paths, but they are narrow and some are cycling prohibited. If Granville Island were more cycling friendly, many cars would be replaced by bikes. I suggest:
    – Safe and convenient cycle paths.
    – Secure bike parking (a bike room or bike lid style bike parking). This would be way cheaper than parking lots for cars.
    Also, there is a planned upgrade to the Granville Bridge which involves upgrading the two middle lanes to become cycling and walking paths. There has also been talk of an elevator to connect to Granville Island. This upgrade would also encourage many to walk and cycle to Granville Island.

      1. In the Netherlands, I have seen elevators and covered moving sidewalks to provide access to overpasses for those cycling and walking, How much does it cost to provide roads and parking lots to provide automobile access? In this case, an elevator would be a relatively inexpensive access solution – especially for those walking or using mobility devices like mobility scooters or wheelchairs.

    1. I’m very happy to walk my bike when I get to Granville Island, since that is a reasonable – and courteous, IMO – thing to do. That doesn’t seem like a major deterrent to biking there, and certainly hasn’t been for me.

  9. The NPA in their 2008 platform proposed a proper modern streetcar linking the island to downtown through the developing Olympic Village neighbourhood. Gregor and Vision Vancouver spent their time belittling the proposal, you get the government you deserve.

    1. As they should have.
      Streetcars do not improve mobility. The NPA plan would be spending millions of dollars of the City’s money on a machine who’s best argument is that it promotes redevelopment and attracts tourists, which is not exactly something we’re short of in this town that we need to take money away from serving the public with useful public services.
      If there’s any place for streetcars in Vancouver, it would be in improving the capacity and priority of congested local bus routes like the 20, where there might actually be some call for the real advantages that streetcars actually have for transportation, rather than through low ridership indirect routes like the 50.

  10. Gregor wants to control the island. Ban the cars and his developer friends promise to build fifty uber-sustainable 25 storey condo towers with new bike lanes running all around and a convenient recycling depot. All the artists have to move to Surrey, deep Surrey.

    1. Hilarious!
      But you know, we all wish that they were putting new bike lanes when condos go up. I see new ones all the time and there’s nothing different about the street in front. The sidewalk is the same, no bike lane on an incomplete street. People moving into their new condo (and starting a new lifestyle) look around them and sees driving as the only option.

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