March 20, 2018

Transportation on Granville Island – and Unaddressed Conflicts in the Future

From Granville Island 2040:

Help Shape the Future of Transportation on Granville Island

We want your input as we develop a transportation strategy for Granville Island.
CMHC-Granville Island is moving forward on a key pillar of the Granville Island 2040 vision that aims to “Improve Access” to the island. In order to realize this vision, we are creating a transportation strategy that will outline a set of coordinated policies to increase access and convenience for all modes of transport.
We have prepared a draft version of this strategy and are now sharing it with the public in order to solicit their feedback, which will be incorporated into the final version.
We encourage you to read the draft Transportation Strategy and tell us what you think by completing the survey before April 8, 2018.


Gord Price: Having been a member of the advisory council for GI2040 with a particular interest in transportation, I confess that I’m a bit disappointed with the draft.  My particular and emphatic input was on the need to rethink the street design of Granville Island.  This is as much an urban- design question as transportation management – but it is essential in thinking about some predictable changes on the Island.
Granville Island, when it opened in 1979, had a startling street design by the standards of the time: no curbs, no sidewalks, no painted lines, no separation of modes; piping and street furniture were used to define space. It assumed people and vehicles could mix if everyone used common sense.
It would never have been approved by City Engineering, but GI was under the control of the Feds.  Hotson and Bakker, the young architects assigned on the project, argued that their approach would maintain the tradition of the Island, save money – and anyway, it wasn’t likely that many people would be on the Island at any one time.  But even with GI’s huge popularity, the design still worked.  With few accidents, it arguably may be even safer than tradition design.
Today, that achievement still needs to be acknowledged – but it may not work for the future of the Island as new pressures and others changes are implemented.
Here are some of the issues:
(1) Granville Island is still car-centric.  The one-way triangle for vehicles may be necessary to handle traffic, but it means bicycles must take long out-of-the-way routes rather than go directly to a destination – for instance from the Anderson Road entrance to the Public Market.  Or cycle against vehicle traffic, presumably illegally.
(2) With the upgrades of greenway routes to the island, particularly South Shore Seaside and Arbutus, GI will be an anomaly.  Parents, in particular, who may feel comfortable having their kids cycle to the Island on safe and separated routes will find they have to navigate mixed congested traffic when they get there – particularly on Anderson, with its complicated entrance, cross traffic and too-narrow lanes.  

(3) With the construction of the Alder Bay Bridge on the east, connection to the Arbutus Greenway on the southwest and Burrard Bridge/Kits to the west, GI will no longer be a destination cul-de-sac; it will be part of a high-traffic interchange with a need for two-way passage, particularly on Cartwright.
The question of how Granville Island can adopt its street design for this new scale of use goes unaddressed in the draft plan.  Presumably, the conflicts will be addressed as they emerge, particularly with the design of the Alder Bay Bridge.  But it would be better to at least identify the issue and begin to explore some options.

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  1. That map is rather misleading.
    There are more roads than just the triangle on Granville Island, so there’s more alternate routs that may be possible.
    Much of it would depend on where the Alder Bay Bridge lands on the east end of the Island and whether it’s path aligns to the north or to the south.
    Here’s an excerpt from the Google map:

    1. PS – Presumably those crossing the bridge would want to stop and visit Granville Island rather than just ride through (for which they could stay on the seawall to the south), so directing the bike path to the roadway (ie a protected path on Johnston St.) seems reasonable. Johnston St. is also very wide. A shortcut off the Island would be via Anderson (as it is for cars).

  2. The remarkable thing to me is that the plan actually calls for motor vehicle traffic to *grow* by 2040 despite all of the plan’s own calls to improve all other methods and despite already shrinking motor vehicle traffic. It’s as if they were uninterested in any sense of internal consistency.

    1. Granville Island is a regional destination. People from Surrey might not come every day, but they will come with visiting friends and relatives. As long as Metro Vancouver continues to grow, traffic to GI will grow.

      1. If this region is to remain livable a key element will be the suburbs developing their own local attractions and amenities. Sure some may still come to the big city and it’s attractions, but that doesn’t require growth in MV traffic on the island – even if they impose their smelly, noisy, dangerous cars on us.
        The key is to create viable options, especially for those who live closer. Improving cycling connections, finally building the downtown streetcar, a bridge elevator/stairway, among other things, can easily accommodate any growth in visits.
        Vancouver has already proven that growth need not be tied to growth in MV traffic. That kind of thinking is so last century though many old fashioned people still cling desperately to the idea.

      2. Except both Metro Vancouver and the Island HAVE grown in popularity over the last decade, and the absolute number of motor vehicle have declined. So there is absolutely no merit whatsoever to the statement “As long as Metro Vancouver continues to grow, traffic to GI will grow.” The actual real live numbers don’t support that at all. The region and the island are capable of growing without growing motor vehicle numbers.

        1. Sorry, “the absolute number of motor vehicles have declined”?! In Metro Vancouver? That’s patently false, and less you are referring to vehicles per capita.

        2. Did… did you even read the report? Page 14. And I was responding to your assertion that traffic to Granville Island would grow, not to Metro Van as a whole. Motor vehicle traffic to Granville Island *HAS* decreased in absolute and relative terms.

  3. 1/ As noticed: Granville island work well…very well, and knowing there is virtually no other successful example like it on the continent (it is a shame that the City engineers didn’t learn from it). GI Planners are very right to be very cautious on any changes…The last thing GI needs is to repeat the Robson square disaster here.
    2/Cyclist Jeff has noticed most GI signage are not in the BC MVA, so he can presumably cycle against vehicle traffic. ..what is legal in many juridiction using this type of signage (Vienna Convention) when posted speed is 30km/h or below.
    nevertheless appending the existing signs like below could help:
    that said, there is value to bring some tweak here and there: Europe has made great stride on shared space since 1980 (where it was an oddity there too), and there is lot to learn from there:
    but making change in an incremental way is the best way: shared space is an alchemy very hard to get right the first time).
    If there is one thing we can regret in the GI plan, is the lack of a public lift connecting the island to the Granville bridge deck: that should be a high priority of the transportation plan, to connect with reasonable transit options.

  4. A streetcar connecting between Olympic Village Station (Canada Line) and Arbutus Station (future Broadway Millennium Line Extension) would be the best thing to alleviate part of the car traffic to and from Granville Island.
    Granville Island will always need some form of car access for the deliveries and goods that are made and used on the island – including concrete – not to mention the taxing or [ubering?] of drunk patrons from the restaurants and theatres on the island.
    Eventually… when another north-south rapid transit line is built to downtown, Granville Island can get a station on that line.

    1. No reason given as to why an elevator to the several bus routes that cross the bridge was not in the report or the survey . It was popular at their last 2 open houses. Is it related to the bridges ability to withstand an earthquake ??/

      1. Not so easy to serve by bus. The elevator and MUP is/was to be in the middle of the bridge, on the wrong side of the bus doors. And having a bus stop in the middle of a bridge just beyond the crest which limits visibility was probably deemed too dangerous. But that isn’t necessarily a reason to ditch the elevator/stair.

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