April 23, 2021

The Futility of Free Parking


This one is for the textbooks.

From The Hive:

… temporary free parking that began last year as a COVID-19 pandemic measure will be reduced   … pay parking will return …

Granville Island management had expected parking to be abundant due to travel restrictions, so they could afford to give drivers an incentive to come.  And drivers came – but not to support Granville Island businesses.  They came for the free parking.

“From employees of surrounding neighbourhood businesses to multiple groups parking to only ride their bikes along the seawall, and boaters gone for days and weeks at a time.

This, unfortunately, has resulted in a lack of parking near the Public Market for shoppers, the docks for kayak, paddleboard rentals and patios, and the artisans, restaurants and shops across the Island.”

In other words, the subsidy of free parking actually hurt the businesses it was meant to help.

However … I wonder what would happen if Granville Island tried out some experiments in active transportation – like cycling – that people actually drove there to experience.

Since the late 70s when the Island opened, the rights-of-way were primarily designed for vehicles (and for pedestrians to walk among them).  There are arrows to point out the primacy of the car:

From the hostile Bridge Street entrance to the one-way road system, it’s unsafe, confusing and frustrating for cyclists.  They cannot go where they obviously should be able to go.

When coming on to the Island, most bikes are heading for the Market.  Either of those roads would be direct routes. But it’s not legal to use them heading north, against the one-way traffic flow.  There are no separated lanes to allow for two-way cycling.

It’s been that way for so long, despite these transparent problems, that it’s fair to conclude Granville Island doesn’t really think it’s worth it to make changes, even experimentally, that would disrupt the assumptions of vehicle priority, and once again make for unhappy stakeholders.  Despite the conversations, nothing much changes.

Granville Island was a great experiment when it opened, allowing for a certain anarchy in the rights-of-way.  So maybe it’s time now for a little more anarchy.  Unless there is some accommodation, ignore the arrows.

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  1. Old Bridge Street is a very short distance (ie one block) from the entrance, it’s not as if you have to ride all the way to the Granville Island Hotel. From a free-flowing pedestrian perspective, it’s a lot easier to look out for vehicles coming from one direction than from both.

    Perhaps that “unreasonable” distance is why I often see cyclists riding the wrong way on the Nelson and Smithe bike lanes or sidewalks?

  2. Change is hard on Granville Island. It’s administered by CMHC but decisions are made largely on the consensus of its hundreds of small business owners. It is a small town whose only stakeholders are conservatively-minded and heavily-biased shopkeepers (they all drive to get there) with little obvious incentive to change. Convincing these people to lighten up on car convenience will be a challenge.

  3. I’d also like to point out that the island has no Mobi bike share station. There briefly was one “trial” station which was taken away. It’s a perfect destination for bike share and yet… One can only assume the island management has blocked this as there’s lots of Mobi stations in the surrounding area. So what’s up?

      1. Since Granville Island is “outside” the City, Mobi is left to negotiate with them independent of City influence. The trial Mobi station was just that – a trial. Once it was over, CMHC and the Market saw no reason to extend. Nothing Mobi can do other than periodically try to convince them otherwise.

        1. Yeah, it just seems so pointless. Why would the island management be opposed? It seems like a no brainer to bring people to the island without parking woes, without emissions etc.

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