November 1, 2018

Trial Balloon at Granville Island

Please take up less space, thanks.

Granville Island in Vancouver is looking to the future with an ambitious plan involving widespread change. We’ve posted on it previously (HERE).

Now, it seems, is the time to float a trial balloon on parking and motor vehicle control — and see what happens.

New Parking System Granville Island’s new parking system will include all public parking stalls on the Island.

  • Pay parking in effect 11 AM – 6 PM
  • Free parking before 11 AM and after 6 PM
  • Winter season (October 1 – April 30) price of $2/hour
  • Summer season (May 1 – September 30) price of $3/hour.

And it’s all about parking availability:

To evaluate the parking prices and hours, we will use the first and third Wednesdays and Saturdays of each month to monitor availability. For May 2020, we will re-evaluate the parking prices. If availability is higher than 40%, we will assess dropping the seasonal parking price. If availability  is less than 15%, we will assess raising the seasonal  parking price.

Part of the new Granville Island plan is summed up in this document, Granville Island 2040, Transportation Strategy (23-page PDF) from the spring of 2018.

Central to the Granville Island 2040 vision is the idea that Granville Island’s long term success will require increasing visitor numbers while decreasing the number of cars. This view is based on the observation that, given the Island’s limited road network, car-dependent visitor growth is not physically possible, especially at peak times of the year when the Island’s roads and parking lots are near full capacity. And over time, the Granville Island 2040 vision involves the reduction of surface parking in order to provide the necessary space for critical new developments that will continue to support tenant operations while attracting more visitors. To achieve this vision, future growth in visitor numbers will have to be largely accommodated by travel modes other than the automobile – walking, cycling, transit and ferry use.

. . . .  Auto-dominated pedestrian experience. All visitors to Granville Island, regardless of their chosen travel mode, become pedestrians. Research shows that visitors tend to come in groups, often multigenerational in composition,  and choose Granville Island for the overall “experience.” Making sure that Granville Island is safe and comfortable  for people of all ages and abilities is crucial to the Island’s long-term success. However, in the view of many visitors,  the pedestrian experience at Granville Island is undermined by the dominating presence of cars.

. . . . Parking Management Strategy In total, there are about 1,231 parking spaces at Granville Island which, along with the Island’s road network, account for approximately 20% of Granville Island’s total land use area. Parking space is distributed across Granville Island, and includes surface parking lots, parking garages, and on-street parking. Most parking stalls are either three-hour free or pay, which together account for about 75% of all parking stalls on the Island. The remaining stalls include reserved, one-hour free, handicap parking, and others.

Currently, there are 600 free parking stalls on the Island, with most of these in close proximity to the Public Market. The Island’s pay parking stalls are mainly on the east side of the Island.

The current approach to parking is a major contributor to the Island’s congestion, which during peak times can be significant. On the Island, the most desirable parking spaces – the free stalls near the Public Market – are also the furthest to drive to on the Island. In order to get to these spaces, the driver passes almost all of the other parking space options on the Island. During peak times when the free spaces are at capacity, the hope of finding one of the coveted free spots likely entices many drivers to circle the Island at least once before resorting to pay parking.

In order to address the issue of peak period traffic congestion at the Island, a more strategic approach to parking is required. Typically, as in other parts of the city and elsewhere, where there is higher demand for parking than supply, there is a cost to park. This helps ensure that the available parking space is better shared among the many people who wish to use it. At Granville Island, where parking can be at or near full capacity at peak times, this suggests that parking rates are too low. At the same time, during slower times of the year, where there is an abundance of available parking, parking rates could be lowered.

A first step for Granville Island is to meter all parking stalls on the Island, so that accurate data on parking usage can be collected. Currently, there is only parking usage data collected from the paid stalls, which is only about 40% of the total.  A second and on-going step is to set the parking rates at a level that achieve about an 85% usage rate.

So here we are , and the first baby step is upon us:  making all car drivers pay for using up Granville Island’s limited amount of land to store their motor vehicles.

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  1. As the vehicles can’t just be easily shoved off to the surrounding hoods, the removal of cars from GI will involve at least as much thought and study as GI 2040 itself. All of the suggested means of car removal will have to be implemented. It will also include study of way-finding from far flung parts of Vancouver and maybe even the region. As suggested, the continued vitality and character of GI is at stake.

  2. Parking was/is/never will be free! I pay for other’s parking with every purchase.

    What GI needs is more Mobi stations on the island and the return and expansion of the False Creek streetcar. Ultimately this could be more of an LRT service from Main Street-Science World Station to UBC instead of an expensive and unnecessary subway beyond Arbutus.

    A multi-door shuttle circling the Island and connecting to the streetcar and the Granville Street subway station would be a great service as well.

    1. Tolling all parked cars on GI makes total sense. However we need some ways to accomodate families coming by car as public transit access is so cumbersome.

      A slow street car is a JOKE. Go fast or go home with rail based systems. Also see: Langley – Surrey slow trains !

      We need FAST movement of people, not a slow bus like experience on rails !

      What False Creek also needs is far more lower bridges to connect pedestrians and bikers back and forth. The very few and rarely used sail boats need to take a back seat.

      Then GI will get more non-car traffic.

      The elevator from / ped walk way on Granville Bridge is nice too. But access from downtown / Yaletown side needs to be VASTLY improved and only lower bridges will do that. False Creek is not an industrial harbour anymore nor is it an area catering mainly to (affluent) sailors. Lower your mast to get under low bridges: problem solved.

      New thinking is required.

      1. (1) Parking fees could pay for either a floating swing bridge or free ferries——(2) parking fees could be collected on entry / exit to the island — Parking fee reduced for each passenger in the car

        1. Merchants opinions matter too.

          One has to ask why so many folks come by car?

          If if car use is too drastically impacted business will drop, thus leases paid.

          More housing on it would help too, but fast and easy access from downtown or Yaletown Roundhouse subway station is UTTERLY INADEQUATE today. Two low bridges would help dramatically.

          Forget the sailboats and the industrial heritage of False Creek. False Creek has a new function today, not fully exploited namely for recreation, housing, retail, and as a mature feature in a densely developed urban context. GI has to be made more accessible without a car.

          Inconveniencing sailors is the price to pay ie inconvenience the very few to benefit the vast majority !!

      1. Hi Adam,

        I completely agree with LRT to UBC but the proposed route you’ve shown makes little sense to me. I get the temptation of the grassy median, but this looks way too much like building LRT where it’s easy and not where it’s needed. IMO it suffers from the same flaw as those who promote subways for their end-to-end benefit, largely ignoring everything in between.

        If the central Broadway subway is to be forgone then LRT absolutely must replace it on Broadway itself – the full length from Commercial Drive. It’s also critical that it serve West Broadway, The Jericho Lands, West 10th and the UBC Golf Course redevelopment rather than spending much of its route in the woods.

        And what’s wrong with removing car lanes? I think that’s imperative rather than something to be avoided. It’s one of the benefits of LRT: making our commercial streets accessible by mass transit so cars can be constrained without a loss of business and vitality. This is where subways fail. They do nothing to serve business except at small, intense and expensive nodes and they fail to constrain the motor vehicle.

        As much as I agree with LRT to UBC I think that there’s a strong case for the Millennium Line extension to Arbutus. The extension to at least Broadway-City Hall Station is the definition of a no-brainer. This is probably all moot now anyway.

        We could still change course on Phase 2 and build a system that is less costly, adds more resilience, more transit networking, more than adequate capacity and is a much better fit for the neighbourhoods it passes through. But it really needs to go through those neighbourhoods rather than skirt way around them.

  3. How about some Mobi stations!? There was briefly a trial one there by the market and now it’s gone again. Seems like the perfect place to Mobi. I can only imagine the Island’s management is the hold up here as Mobi has added stations like crazy elsewhere.

    1. There is some jurisdictional weirdness around that. Granville Island is a federal fiefdom, not part of the city proper. It doesn’t seem like something that absolutely cannot be sorted out. It likely boils down to liability and money.

    2. Maybe the old rail tracks are the issue? Are they still embedded in the road? I used to cycle to work on GI and you really had to pay attention to riding over them at the right angle – mostly in the rain . I never wiped out but know others who did.

  4. Vehicle congestion and parking fees will not reduce the popularity of Granville Island. A better means of connection is needed. With a new Vancouver city council perhaps there may be the impetus to follow up on the Granville Island study in which people and the study suggested the re-instatement of the Olympic rail line connecting Granville Island to the Canada Line Olympic station which has a virtually empty parking lot for cars beside it. It would provide an affordable means of accessing the Island using the $18 million rail line that the city and feds already spent to utilize it for the LRT service during the Olympics. It could even enter the Island using the existing track structure on the island (upgraded of course, with the European rubber strip in the rails allowing bikes to go over it without issues). I had friends who regularly did their grocery shopping on the island using the short lived LRT service to connect with their residences.

    1. (1) A shuttle bus from Olympic station & looping the island ( with less traffic) would test demand for for a tram. —– ———– (2) No mention of elevator or stairs from from the bridge begs the question WHY?—- OR — Is the bridge going to be be demolished ?

      1. Of course the tram/LRT should do more than just serve GI.

        The elevator is an interesting idea but has some big problems. Probably not enough pedestrian traffic on the bridge to justify it. It was to go from the proposed centre multi-use path. There was a suggestion of a bus stop but the bus doors would be on the wrong side and a bus stop on a bridge with the crest creating visibility problems probably makes the idea too dangerous or at least really impractical.

        1. Parking in the curb lanes (except the bus stops) & a lower speed limit would solve any visibility problem if there really is one.——- BUS doors on the WRONG side???????????? Bus stops on both sides of the road as well as a pedestrian crossing like everywhere else——There is not much pedestrian traffic because there are no stairs or elevators.

      2. There are at least $50 million reasons why the bridge access and elevator – interesting as it is – will sit cold for a while. It’s a really neat idea and is probably doable, but is nobody’s priority right now.

        1. Dan——where did your $50 million elevator cost come from ?——That is more than the construction cost a 250 suite condo building elevators included.—Nobody’s priority except those who would like to get there by any of the 6 bus routes that cross the bridge

    2. Though I agree with your premise of the tram, the parking lot near the Olympic Village Station is currently under consideration for affordable, non-profit rental housing which was the No. One issue in the recent election. I don’t see housing being easily kiboshed by accessory surface parking for GI, accessed by a still non-extstant tram.

      1. Why is BC housing & C O V building temporary (5 year ) social housing there at a cost of $100 k per unit instead of housing with a 50 year shelf life for about $150 a unit?

        1. Because it’s not 5 year at $100k per unit. Temporary doesn’t mean disposable. Modular units can be moved to a new site when permanent development forces them to move. There’s no reason that couldn’t happen several times, saving a large part of the total unit cost at each new location. Meanwhile, they might stay where they are for more than 5 years.

          Also, from proposal to move-in is about 6-8 months rather than 3 years + for permanent housing. I’d also guess that $150k/unit for permanent housing is unrealistically low.

          Note that these modular units are built to Step Code 3, the highest energy efficiency requirement in the BC Building Code that any municipality has adopted.

  5. I’m frustrated by this “parking management strategy” as a solution to G.I’s pedestrian woes. It’s doubtful that increased parking rates will have any effect on lessening the amount of cars on G.I. It’s a shame that the powers that be cannot come up with a more intelligent solution. There are already many good ways to access G.I by bus and bike. Those alternate means will quickly become the norm if cars are prohibited on G.I. (with the exception of merchants/farmers, etc).

    1. What? I disagree. There are currently no good ways to bike to Granville Island. There are only three access points that you can do it and each of them have problems.

      1. I agree with Adanac. GI is very bike-unfriendly. An aquaintance recently had a serious injury as a result of a failed crossing of the tracks. What is required is are direct and separated walking and cycling paths from Seaside Greenway at Alexander to the public market. This would probably encourage tons of people to cycle to the market. This plan will probably encourage people to continue to favour car use. I give this plan a fail.

    2. Sure Beth, if you live withing the bubble of the DT core and immediate surroundings. GI is owned by the federal government which means they have a responsibility to make it accessible to all Canadians, even the unwashed suburbanites from Langley and Maple Ridge who don’t want to spend all day on transit getting there.

      As some have pointed out, reviving the streetcar would help reduce vehicles. Working with the city to provide a parking structure on lands they own just outside the Island would also help remove cars from the pedestrian areas.

      1. Where can I find a document which states that GI must provide car access to folks from Langley? Do they also require an airplane runway next to GI for people flying in from Calgary?

        Wouldn’t they want to maximize the success of the businesses on the island? This parking plan is a big fail in that regard.

        1. Charging market driven parking fees will reduce traffic & parking demand—- No more driving in circles trying to find a ( free) empty stall——– The C O V & the suburbs should do the same.

            1. Merchants charging upper end prices afforded by yuppies aka “urban elitists”, the occasional local visitors and tourists.

              Monkey with parking too much and customers will disappear.

              Access by other means ought to be improved in parallel to avoid retail exodus. A low ped/bike bridge to Yaletown Roundhouse subway the best option ! Everyone (except the odd sailor) will love it !