Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Good news

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Two good news stories this morning.

The Burrard Bridge trail looks like it has been a success. The report will go to the Transportation Committee tomorrow. Or you could could read the Vancouver Sun’s summary. (Or that of the Georgia Straight.)

Its popularity among cyclists – 90 per cent in favour, and pedestrians, with 79 per cent in favour — isn’t surprising, but the support among drivers may be.

Of those drivers who travel the Burrard Bridge without a passenger, 51 per cent support the continuation of the bike lane trial, with 31 per cent opposed.

So the promises of doom turn out to be wrong. Do you think there will be any public statement from the DVBIA aplogising? No, neither do I.

The other one is a bit further afield. The Guardian reports that one of the busiest intersections in Central London has been rebuilt. Following similar experiments in Kensington all the street furniture designed to pen in pedestrians has been removed.

This boosts available space for pedestrians by around two-thirds, as well as – the designers hope – encouraging all road users towards a more thoughtful, responsible attitude.

The biggest innovation is the use of diagonals for one pedestrian crossing phase. All vehicle traffic in all directions is stopped and pedestrians can cross diagonally, if they wish.  This is known by the unfortunate name of a “scramble crossing”. The reason for the redesign was exactly the same as that for Broadway in New York. There were far too many pedestrians for the space allocated to them. But due to the street furniture they could not spill onto the street, the way they did on Broadway, resulting in considerable congestion and a field day for pick pockets.

Oxford Street and Regent Street are two of London’s busiest shopping streets. Oxford Street has been closed to car traffic for a while now but is heavily used by buses, taxis and, of course, delivery vehicles.

Now that the cyclists can use Burrard Bridge safely, I hope someone will start looking critically at some of the busier intersections of downtown and thinking about where diagonal crossings might make a reality of Vancouver’s claimed priority for pedestrians.

And while I am thinking about that, will someone please reconsider the idiotic decision to limit the number of entrances and exits at Canada Line stations that are underneath intersections. Since the trains are below the street surface, it should be possible to get directly to the platforms. It should not be necessary to have to cross two busy streets, and then do a labyrinthe of tunnels and staircases. You can see how that is done at Oxford Circus too.

Oxford Circus

Oxford Circus

Written by Stephen Rees

November 2, 2009 at 10:17 am

Posted in cycling, pedestrians

Tagged with ,

18 Responses

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  1. Oh Stephen you dreamer… wanting easy access to a Vancouver rapid transit system.

    I wrote to the project people years ago suggesting the inclusion of convenient entrances, but they ignored me and all common sense and we got what we have today: 3 separate sets of stairs/elevators to reach the inbound platform at Oakridge, a walk from Robson and Granville to Georgia and Granville so you can walk most of the way back to Robson to actually get on a train. In some cases utility rooms were deliberately built in the way of adding other entrances in the future. You’d think they don’t want people to use the system.


    November 2, 2009 at 10:59 am

  2. I’ve long thought that the intersections of Robson/Burrard and Robson/Thurlow would be perfect for diagonal crossings. So often traffic can’t turn because of all the pedestrians (whether the light is green or red), so it would actually help traffic to move. And more so, there are so many pedestrians at busy times that crowds form at each corner waiting to cross, making it hard to get by if you don’t want to cross.


    November 2, 2009 at 11:10 am

  3. London, Paris etc. etc. etc. even Montreal and Toronto, have had several entrances since day 1.. this is another sad proof of my belief that not a single (at the decision-making level)person connected to Vancouver transit has ever bothered to check how transit is done in towns with way more transit experience.
    In Toronto (mid-town and uptown) buses and streetcars actually turn from the street into a loading zone by one of a station exits (and there is a roof sheltering the waiting passengers)
    We do have that at Lougheed station (minus the roof over waiting passengers) but not in Vancouver…yet the St Clair station area for example, just off Yonge st, is just as busy as Broadway at Commercial.

    By the transit station in Osaka, Namba, has 26 exits…fear not: there is an information desk in the concourse, with several staff, for people that are hopelessly lost. The signage is quite good actually (including signs in Roman alphabet) if you know where you are going.

    Red frog

    November 2, 2009 at 12:41 pm

  4. It is even worse than that. The planners were ideologically opposed to multiple entrances. They said they did not like “octopus stations” due to security reasons. Fewer entrances does mean more people are using the entrances so I guess this would improve security. I can understand this at stations with low ridership but on the busier stations, it does not make any sense and likely serves to lower ridership and system capacity.


    November 2, 2009 at 1:14 pm

  5. People were complaining about the high cost of the Canada Line without adding costs for additinal undergound passages and entrances. Several underground stations in highly commercial areas have been built with knock-out panels that allow future underground connections. Plus the City probably favours people wallking on the street rather than underground.

    Waterfront Station – apparently a connection to Sinclair Centre is possible. The wisdom of the south street entrance (rather than through Sinclair Centre) has been borne out, as evidenced by the CP Station being closed when the Canada Line starts up at 5:30am (imagine gettting the Feds to open up early?).

    Broadway-City Hall – a knock-out panel exists on the west end of the mezzanine to connect to a future M-Line extension (whether under 10th or under Broadway)and also to a planned entrance at the Crossroads complex (northwest corner of Broadway & Cambie) for which space was allocated in the dvelopment permit but which is being used as retail pending the financing and construction of the tunnel connection – probably pending redevelopment of the complex at the southwest corner of Broadway & Cambie.

    Oakridge – there’s a knock-out panel in the ticketing hall to allow a connection to the northwest corner of Cambie & 41st. Not sure, but there may also be one to the southwest corner as well, but that would require a second ticketing hall.


    Didn’t the Granville Mall Revitalization Project call for scramble crossings at Georgia & Granville and at Robson & Granville?

    Ron C.

    November 2, 2009 at 1:34 pm

  6. Stephen:

    Good story. But we don’t need to look to the megacities of the world for lessons. Just down south in Oakland, they have implemented 2-3 ped scrambles over the past 2 years — in Chinatown!


    November 2, 2009 at 4:00 pm

  7. Love the new Oxford Circus. Very simple, clean and elegant. Perfect exmaple that quality urban design doesn’t need fancy expensive engineering or confusing signage. Just a healthy dose of respect for the needs and rights of pedestrians and clever use of different colours and tones to guide users. Very modern and very British.

    Chris S.

    November 2, 2009 at 4:27 pm

  8. Ron, the decision against multiple entrances occurred very early in the process, long before there were any concerns regarding the budget.


    November 2, 2009 at 7:07 pm

  9. Wasn’t a new entrance recently added to Granville station? Perhaps new entrances can be added to Canada Line stations as ridership increases. I would imagine Tube stations in London have far higher ridership figures than Canada Line. If I remember correctly, London has fare gates as well which improve security (or so I’ve heard).

    Chris S.

    November 3, 2009 at 12:00 pm

  10. fare gates and staff nearby don’t deter those that want to cheat..according to Transport for London, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Fare evasion costs Londoners £70m a year”

    Red frog

    November 3, 2009 at 12:16 pm

  11. As Ron C points out some stations have knock out panels in the walls to accommodate more entrances – usually if a developer wants one.

    Fare gates have not improved security in London – or anywhere else. Pickpockets and suicide bombers will happily buy a ticket to ply their trades. London still also has fare evasion. It cannot be eliminated. Gates merely makes the cheats more creative.

    The security argument in favour of a single entrance is also flawed. Crossing the street is about the most dangerous activity we undertake on a daily basis. Eliminating unnecessary street crossings would have undoubtedly saved lives and injuries. But anyway safety is in reality a trade off against lots of other desirable objectives. In this case the sacrifice of passenger’s convenience and time will also impact ridership.

    Stephen Rees

    November 3, 2009 at 12:20 pm

  12. Sure, but I think you can agree that it would be more expensive to build multiple entrances than not.

    I would assume that the planners had it in mind even before the RFP bidding process to design the system in a manner that would keep down costs (and bids).

    Ron C.

    November 3, 2009 at 12:26 pm

  13. Side note on inconveniences at the stations.
    For Yaletown Station, the City is in the process of permanently removing the left turn bays on Pacific Blvd at Davie and at Drake (years in advance of the median being required for the streetcar) because it thinks that it will be safer given the higher volumes of pedestrian traffic created by Yaletown Station. That will reduce Pacific Boulevard to two lanes and if there is a left turning vehicle, there will be only one through lane. There are other issues at play, like the City “de-highwayizing” (completely made-up word) Pacific Blvd. It is also interesting to note that this week’s City Council report on installing left turn bays at Knight and 33rd shows data indicating a significant drop in vehicle accidents when left turn bays are installed (so will Pacific Blvd have more accidents?).

    Click to access ttra2.pdf

    Hopefully the City will at least install an advance left turn signal at the intersection.

    So the absence of an underground passage to the south side of Pacific Blvd (which would be too expensive) not only inconveniences the passengers, but also others in the area.

    Ron C.

    November 3, 2009 at 12:37 pm

  14. As Richard has said, the opposition to multiple entrances goes back to the original design. It was a fait accompli at least a year before the first public feedback opportunity was presented.

    Planners here seem to think passengers will jump through any number of hoops to access trains when the opposite is true. If taking transit is too much of a pain in the neck, most people will find an alternative.

    As Stephen points out crossing the street is a very dangerous activity and Canada Line seems to have gone out of its way to force people to cross streets when a few dollars could have provided a safer route.

    Marine Drive has to be the worst example. I wouldn’t walk across Cambie/Marine unless someone had a gun in my back. There are so many lanes, so many signal phases and so much traffic that drivers simply don’t have any attention left for pedestrians. The station could have straddled the intersection like Main Street does. It would still have been focused on the bus loop at the south side, but people coming from the north would have had a safe way to get to/from the train and buses. There aren’t many pedestrians at that intersection, but I’d argue that the unfriendly and dangerous environment is a major reason why.


    November 3, 2009 at 1:01 pm

  15. Getting back to the original points, I’m glad the Burrard project was so successful that they’re looking to keep it. I also look forward to the possibility of having a pure pedestrian phase at select intersections.

    Thanks for the link Ron. I live near Knight and 33rd and can attest to the fact that there is, on average, a collision there every three days. I’m looking forward to having fewer visits from the Vancouver Fire Department and BC Ambulance service.

    A path connecting the children’s playground and so-to-be-built skateboard park to the two signalized intersections will be a nice addition. It will certainly be safer than walking up Knight Street, but that’s not saying much. At least one lamp post and a section of fence gets ripped out every year by vehicles jumping the Knight Street curb.


    November 3, 2009 at 3:10 pm

  16. Hopefully the success of Burrard project creates momentum for more cyclist/pedestrian-oriented projects. Where do people think the city should focus next? I would say anywhere on Robson west of Granville. Every time I’ve been on Robson on a busy day I’ve hated it due to the volume of pedestrians and narrow foot paths. You would think the traders along would be in favor of anything which improves the experience of shoppers thus making them more likely to want to return.

    Chris S.

    November 3, 2009 at 3:39 pm

  17. Chris, it looks like the great success of the Burrard Trial will help in getting more cycling improvements around the city. Protected bike lanes are now the city priority for cycling improvements.

    Regarding Robson, we will have a trial of a car-free Robson (and Granville, Hamilton and Mainland) during the Olympics. It would be great to make it permanent. It would be unconscionable to lie to the world by having great car free Robson when they are here for the Olympics and remove it before they come back to experience it after the Olympics. Imagine their disappointment in the “Greenest City”.


    November 3, 2009 at 5:59 pm

  18. On another pedestrian-related note, the new trees have been planted on Granville up to Robson (the Robson-Georgia block will be treeless as a public plaza but will have lots of funky lampposts and the mature trees were retained north of Georgia) – unfortunately, the size of the new trees looks smaller than was indicated when the project was approved. I recall City staff indicating a 3″ caliper for the new trees. Here’s what was actually planted and will be subject to the weekly circus of nightclubbers on Granville (Pics by Locked In of

    Ron C.

    November 4, 2009 at 2:21 pm

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