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

On Broadway

with 16 comments

SFU City Programme “Designing Broadway” Monday, May 30, 7 – 9 pm, SFU at Harbour Centre

Broadway, extending across almost the entire city, is not only an important street for walking, living, shopping and work but is also one of Vancouver’s busiest transit corridors.  How can we make it better?

Allan Jacobs, former Director of City Planning for San Francisco and author of Great Streets, and Elizabeth Macdonald, Professor of Urban Design at the University of California, Berkeley, will speak to best practices in street design and provide advice on the design of Broadway and how it could be a ‘Really Good’ Street, if not a ‘Great Street.’

In his introduction Gordon Price mentioned that the evening was sponsored by the City of Vancouver, in the same way that they had sponsored the recent presentation on the viaducts

I have quoted the SFU blurb above since the two introductory speakers were not on the programme. The value of these contributions is, I think, debatable but the effect was that they both took up time that would normally have been available for discussion. By 9pm I had to leave – and a lot of people decided to go before that.  So I did not get all the discussion points

City Engineer Peter Judd
Spoke about the City’s Transportation plan update. The original targets of the last plan were said to be optimistic but they were exceeded early on. Both jobs and population in the City are trending up, but both automobile use and miles driven are trending down. These trends are due to land use changes. Transportation planning has to be done in the context of land use, transit and economic  development. We live in a time of change. “Today’s kids” have a different set of values fort hem transportation is not all about owning a car. The City is now consulting about what the vision of the future should be –

Broadway is the second highest concentration of jobs in the region. There is a distinct change in the nature of the street at Arbutus divide. East of Arbutus traffic flows are heavier – 30,000 at Cambie  (Knight is 40,000)  six lanes wide – and Broadway is also the only continuous truck route north of 41st. There is heavy transit use 100,000 passengers per day which is similar to the Canada Line and double the Millennium Line. He also noted that the  expectations of Canada Line use were quickly exceeded. There is a significant amount of demand for transit that cannot currently be expressed due to capacity constraints of the system. Eats of Arbutus it is a long way to cross the street and there are only limited opportunities for amenities such as public art or street seating.

West of Arbutus, Broadway is very different. There are awnings over the sidewalk  and it is seen to be a place to have your business. There are the same number of transit trips but only  20 to 25,000 vehicle trips per day.

In recent years the number of cars entering the city declined 5% (downtown 20%). In the past 15 years of growth has been accommodated on walk, bike and cycle, and New York is similar. We have been able to support a rate of economic growth that could not otherwise have been accommodated by automobile.

Heading West On Broadway In Vancouver

Heading West On Broadway In Vancouver by Arlene Gee on flickr

On Central Broadway the mode split is more similar to the rest of the region. 21% of trips are on transit but improvements to transit are the most essential as there are currently more than 2,000 pass-ups at peak hour. If we had the same mode split on Broadway as downtown the automobile volumes would fall. It would then be entirely doable to have parking on street, with bus bulges, sidewalk widening and all the rest. Rapid Transit would make that possible – and make it a better street.

Lance Berelowitz – is currently working for the City as a consultant to update policies for the Central Broadway area. He read from the City’s Terms of Reference for his work and it mentions Great Street, a vibrant public realm, and community consultation later this year. the study has a 30 year horizon and a policy decision is expected in 2012.

Broadway is both extraordinary and very vexing. It is unique: it is the only continuous east west route across the City and into Burnaby (where it is called Lougheed Highway) and is wider at 99′ than most arterials (not the 66′ typical of Vancouver). It is the  pre-eminent east west corridor, with significant buildings along it and its intersections with all the north south routes are important nodes. The opportunity of rapid transit of some kind is that it will “take the heat off an over-subscribed piece of real estate”. What Broadway might look like with rapid transit is currently what Translink is studying. “If you get rapid transit underground, you no longer need the B Line.” Therefore it is possible to re-engineer the street to attract more people, and better buildings. Public realm is underwhelming. Its lack of attraction stems from the absence of street trees. The linden trees in Kitsilano west of MacDonald, saved by public protest shows that substantial trees can survive on Broadway . The built form is spotty at best. The buildings are  old and tired and many are only 1 or 2 stories high. This is simply not high enough relative to the great width of the street.

Allan Jacobs and Elizabeth McDonald – Cityworks

On Broadway – a possible future Great Street

We can take more lessons from you than you can learn from us – you are doing so well.  “They talk about Great Streets but they never give any damn dimensions.” We measure streets: for instance  – how far is it between doorways? On Queen Street in Toronto they are 16′ apart. We also count people as well as cars.

Broadway is many streets over its length – but it is not a great walking street. Ultimately we believe it will be the main street of the city.

Central Broadway  [I need to point out here that he mainly showed many pictures, and it will take me some time to research and find illustrations. He relied heavily on people seeing what he was talking about rather than explaining it.]

There are some common physical and designable characteristics of great streets. The first is that they are places where people to walk with some leisure –  a street in Rome, Queen St TO, Robson St, Davie St were all given as examples. On Strøget in Copenhagen they counted a pedestrian flow of 16 people per metre per minute. The greatest flow is found on Avenida Florida in Buenos Aires at  24 – which is probably the maximum. They noted also that people were strolling back and forth – they were not necessarily travelling through the street, but enjoying it.

“Be cautious about standards – I challenge them all the time”

The best streets are comfortable: he showed a picture of a street in San Francisco where the wind [vortex] created by tall buildings blew people over. We need physical comfort – shade when its hot, sun when its cool – and that is the role of [deciduous] trees.

Autumn On Broadway, 2005

Autumn On Broadway, 2005 by Kurrs on flickr

The best streets are defined by a sense of place, they have boundaries. The ancients understood this and had a rule that the building height had to be at least half the width of the street. He showed Brooklyn brownstones at 4 storeys which do that. “If the buildings don’t do it, trees can.”

Transparency – the ability to see and know by sight what it is behind is what gives definition to the street, and creates a feeling of safety. You don’t get it with the Nieman Marcus store in San Francisco [picture of blank wall] whereas Macy’s on Union Square invites you in. Glass doesn’t always do it – black glass creates Darth Vader buildings:[you think] “nothing good can be happening in there!” But he also showed a narrow alley in Venice with high walls on both sides where trees and branches were visible over the top of the walls – this also creates a sense of comfort, knowing that there is a garden there

Buildings that are complementary – not all the same. Princes St Edinburgh

Quality and maintenance – a control on fly bill posters, clean windows,

Qualities that engage the eyes – cornices “ins and outs” – which creates shadow lines that attract the eyes – the eyes have to move

Trees give you the greatest bang for the buck. Ideally at  15 -35 ft spacing – and come to the corners – do not be deterred by the claimed need for clear sight lines for car drivers at corners

  • many buildings rather than few
  • marked beginnings and endings
  • places along the way – he illustrated this with a small square that the people took over – “mini parks” often no more than one or two parking spots taken over
  • density
  • special design features – fountains in Nuremberg

Elizabeth MacDonald spoke about Balanced Streets

Balance is needed between

  • different types of movement
  • movement and in place
  • hardscape and greenscape

There are many competing interests: success is when no-one gets everything but everyone gets a lot,  and the public realm serves all interests.

We can get balance between modes at either the street level or at a city-wide level. Not all streets need be the same but no streets should be sacrificed to fast movement. Some streets should be for transit, bikes or walking

She illustrated this by showing the various Amsterdam transport networks.  One example was the IJBurg “linear tramway district”. They chose not to give vehicles priority.

Portland OR is well balanced downtown because all the streets have a narrow right of way with short blocks that limit streets. they have also introduced curbless shared streets – Teachers Park

She showed a Paris shopping street with mixed traffic where pedestrians outnumber cars. There are movable bollards that only residents and local businesses can open – and they drive at walking pace.

Textures are used in Copenhagen to define car, pedestrian and bike areas. “Everybody young and old rides bikes because they feel so safe”
The new cycle track on Hornby Street achieves the dame thing with hardscape. There are a few aesthetic issues but it is a great idea and safer than an on- street bike lane.

San Francisco is  reducing lane widths, and removing parking and turning pavement into parks. They have created street parks in former parking places. Because they were deemed temporary they were easy to do:  then they become permanent as people show they like them and use them.
In The Castro there are curved streetcar tracks through a park taken from the street – the curve limits the speed of the streetcars in any event.
They have made a number of commercial streets better with the use of narrow medians with planting

Portland green streets – stormwater runoff issue – vegetative swales

Comprehensive rebalancing – SF Better Streets plan – common framework –

Rebalancing big streets

International Blvd Oakland CA 100′ row – 72′ roadway – but is also the neighbourhood shopping street
Fruitvale BART station – moved surface parking to create transit village – traffic calming – new plaza – centre median – pedestrian refuge and slows down traffic but appropriate for neighborhood

Octavia Blvd SF – removal of freeway at Market Street – Hayes Valley –
133′ wide – rebuild frontage – in some places lots less than 15′ deep – could be student housing or other temporary things. Narrow side access roads with a mountable curb to meet the demands of the fire department. A pedestrian realm created in the median
Park at end of street – Patricia’s Green – named after a local activist on freeway removal

Pacific Blvd Vancouver – a key policy in the city Transportation plan was to keep current capacity: that meant that on Pacific the City engineers identified excess roadway. There were to be three different lengths: two outer parts with “one-sided multiway boulevards” and a central area where 122′ of asphalt was replaced by two 25′ roadways, a parking lane “flex zone” and central median with trees. There was also to be a bus lane and 16′ side access roads to keep speeds down. [I was there recently and simply did not recognize any of these features – so I have changed the tense of what I wrote.She must have been talking about what they proposed not what was built.]


busy broadway

Busy Broadway by Boris Mann on flickr

In its current state its is “snaggle tooth, haphazard, trees don’t add up to anything, too narrow sidewalks”. It is a bad pedestrian realm overall but some bus stops have been made better with wider sidewalks due to greater set backs of the buildings.

“It can’t be everything”


[Question inaudible] Tomorrow there will be a design charette with city staff

Pedestrian realm should incorporate porous surfaces to deal better with surface water issues

Q: Viable street trees

A: There are lots of ways – importance of not letting the budget be cut

Q: Broadway bike route is on 10th – transit is the key – if we don’t have direction on [the type of] Rapid Transit [surface or underground] we can’t do design

A: Agreed – we will look at both alternatives – going underground frees up the right of way for other uses – and it gets people excited about the possibilities

Q:  Why don’t we build cheap housing for students at UBC to reduce need for travel?

[Celia Brauer hit the nail on the head with that one. It is the land use at UBC that’s screwed up – lots of housing but only at market prices and hardly any for students. There was, of course, no response]

Q:  Bikes – helmet rule – Copenhagen and Amsterdam don’t need them.

A – depends on speed of moving vehicles but at 25mph it becomes lethal – it depends on the degree of separation of bikes from cars

Q: very concerned about seniors in wheelchairs, scooters

A concerned about paving and curb cuts


There was further discussion after 9pm – hopefully some of those who stayed might fill that in as comments. Gordon Price was asking about trucks as I left.

My reaction was that while we looked at a lot of places that have either been well designed or managed to develop as civilised places (i.e. they kept the cars under control and allowed people to use the pubic realm) there was not much that emerged about what could or should happen on Broadway, simply because the rapid transit question remains unresolved.

While writing this I learned that the Evergreen Line has been put off once again. And, of course, that is the first priority for rapid transit in this region. Vancouver is quite right to point out how bad things are on Broadway. The problem that I see is that it is much worse everywhere else in the region, and we are currently busy pointing fingers between levels of government. Having totally hobbled municipal government, the province has the chutzpah to blame them for every delay. And all the talk about new sources of revenue seems to be just that. Talk, not action.

The last time I heard talk of Great Streets here, the context was No 3 Road. There, the overhead ALRT guideway seems to guarantee failure. Though the height limit on buildings doesn’t help. It is still a place I avoid as much as possible. Something I learned when I came to Richmond, and has yet to be disproved. You certainly do not see anyone walking at some leisure there!

Broadway, Vancouver

Broadway, Vancouver by Sarah@Liverpool on flickr

Written by Stephen Rees

May 31, 2011 at 11:14 am

16 Responses

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  1. “Why don’t we build cheap housing for students at UBC to reduce need for travel?”

    honestly, it was an off topic question. It was also based on a fallacy saying that
    “All people in the buses on Broadway are student of UBC”-which is spread by translink bashers and ignorant people.

    As stated, in introduction by Peter Judd, Central Broadway is the second concentration of job in the region, VGH alone concentrate something like 15,000 jobs…

    By the same token, Why not build housing for the nurses near the hospital?

    I find it interesting that in this hodgepodge, Celia Brauer has a diametrically opposed opinion as soon as her $2millions+ backyard is concerned: “they will find somewhere else to go!”…and commute by bucolic buses, because rapid transit, she opposes too!

    Which nail you are talking about? the one of discredit?

    another off topic question was the one on helmet.
    too bad Elizabeth answered, in addition the wrong way:

    How come some one advocating shared street with mixed traffic (car and pedestrian together)…explain that that is unsafe, and so cyclist (and by extension pedestrian) should wear helmet?

    Overall the talk, thought interesting, was reharshing points found in the Allan Jacobs book, “great street” and question session haven’t filled my expectation. The overall content was not focusing enough on the Broadway specific: Broadway is a long stretch, we long perspective due to specific topography as illustrated in your first picture?… What is wrong there?…why?
    What is possible to improve it, what kind of building form, what is feasible ?…

    All that is still left open for discussion…
    I disagree that it is “because the rapid transit question remains unresolved.”: In fact I think the opposite:
    We should first discuss what kind of “Broadway/public space/city we want” which will eventually command the right kind of rapid transit fitting in the picture
    The other way around will dictate the streetscape and could be a lost of opportunities to improve it as I have suggested here.

    You also mention that “[evergreen line is] the first priority for rapid transit in this region. Vancouver is quite right to point out how bad things are on Broadway. The problem that I see is that it is much worse everywhere else in the region,”

    I found interesting the Jarret Walker opinion expressed on his blog and taking full sense in the Vancouver context:
    “We can’t focus on how worthy or victimized or generous your suburb or community or electoral district is, nor do we care what our grandparents promised to your grandparents. We as a regional infrastructure agency care about outcomes for our region, and we will not make investments that look unlikely to deliver those outcomes.”

    Needless to say, I agree with his statement and eventually believe the Broadway rapid transit could fit the bill (investment delivering expected outcomes, or best bang for the buck) better than other option pursued around the region.


    May 31, 2011 at 9:58 pm

  2. I agree with Voony that designing Broadway should come first–or at least just before choosing a transit type. Many European cities had great streets for a long long long time that were getting ruined by too many cars and parking spots.
    Reducing the number of cars and having a LRT brought back the greatness of some of these streets. Other streets eliminated cars and got back the throngs of pedestrians they had before the invention of cars.

    Is that street in Paris Montorgeuil? as in other “shared” streets in France delivery vehicles are mostly allowed in the morning and the private cars of people living above stores are allowed to park from the evening to the next morning, as these street don’t have a back lane and buildings have no indoor parking. During the days these streets are mostly for shoppers..

    What amazed me the first time I was in Japan was the number of bikes in major towns, with everyone wearing “normal” clothes ad no helmet. Another wondrous thing was the pedestrian shopping streets that were roofed over (the roof rest on thin posts, clear of the adjacent buildings, allowing these to be of different heights and to be torn down and rebuilt without touching the roof. The longest one must be in Osaka: 2.6 km long!

    In defense of Broadway..let’s not forget that Vancouver is a tiny tot, compared to towns in Europe, Asia, South America etc. that have been CONTINUOUSLY inhabited for at least 2300 years..much longer in some cases, and already had paved streets and buildings several stories high in the B.C. years.

    Red frog

    May 31, 2011 at 11:10 pm

  3. Alan Jacobs remarked that in one street the “suicide lane” had been converted to a loading zone for trucks. I’d like to know if trucks are ever allowed to use BRT lanes off peak.

    The lecture was a bit of a disappointment. No real presentation from the City. All tight lips. There was an intimation that transit on Broadway would be either “surface” or “subway”. That should be a slap of reality to the adherents of “Skytrain”… as was today’s delay of the Evergreen to 2015. The Tri-Cities need to come to some reality around two key issues:

    1) Trams are as fancy as skytrain;
    2) Suburbs don’t need/can’t afford high-capacity transit.

    Most poignant perhaps was the discussion of the Expo (Pacific) Boulevard. Alan Jacobs’s rambla-like design for a wide pedestrian area in the centre—60 to 80 feet wide—got dumped by the City. They built instead a puny little thing barely 10-feet wide. In one shining day during the Olympic Spring I remember that city works had lined up a bunch of “Johnny on the Spots” on the median. Worked beautifully—I used one. However, they were gone the next day I was back.

    There was NO SUBSTANTIVE discussion about Broadway. We’ve done a better job kicking it around here and on the Bula Blog. Omens and Dark Portents of what’s to come??


    May 31, 2011 at 11:49 pm

  4. Voony – I would refer you to Peter Judd’s statement that transit use is as heavy west of Arbutus as it is east. That suggests to me that UBC is the major destination for am peak hour travel. However, it was also the case that a non stop service between Commercial Drive Station and UBC could not be sustained

    Lewis – the expression “SkyTrain” is used by Translink now to include the Canada Line which is mostly subway and is not operated by LIM motors. Grade separation in Vancouver in future commitments – for example statements by Gordon Campbell – was that bored tube was the preferred technology. This was based on the misleading statement that this would not cause any surface disruption.

    As long as we do not build high capacity transit in suburbs they will remain at relatively low densities. We are back to the old “shape or serve” debate again. Advocates of streetcars point out that surface transit with frequent stops can support a lot of density along the line whereas grade separated transit with less frequent stations requires high rises around those stations.

    I think that the critical issue is that planning must integrate transit and land use. As things stand here now municipalities who have control over land use find their decisions nullified by the province’s control over capital funds for new transit lines – see Port Moody as the clearest example. Others are reluctant to break away from car oriented development since rapid transit is always to be built in some unspecified future.

    The current stance that there is “no money for transit” is simply a product of the provincial preference to spend transportation capital funds on new and expanded freeways.

    Stephen Rees

    June 1, 2011 at 6:32 am

  5. […] future [Vancouver Sun] Vancouver not as unaffordable as it seems: the data [State of Vancouver] On Broadway [Stephen Rees's […]

    re:place Magazine

    June 1, 2011 at 8:08 am

  6. Thanks for this post, Stephen. I’m sorry I missed the meeting, even though I probably would have been disappointed.

    I’m with Voony. Broadway’s existing functionality as BOTH a regional and local destination must deeply inform the commitment of this corridor to rapid transit. Ditto the presence of the snmall city at the end of the line (UBC).

    High capacity rapid transit designed not for today, but for mid to late-century, is, in my opionion, absolutely necessary on Broadway. We can’t afford to make a mistake and short the future capacity, which will likely be the highest in the region in short order. Nothing will influence this corridor more than the decision on transit. Moreover, it is a priority over street trees and paving patterns, which would come at the very end of the process.

    Regarding urban design, it’s my opnion that a subway connecting the Millennium Line to UBC coupled with an improved #9 electric trolley service (maintain dense two-block stop pattern, articulated vehicles, bus stop bump outs, signal priority) will break the rather thin assumption that linking SkyTrain to land use always leads exclusively to towers. The one kilometre spacing of subway stations will be complemented by the high-capacity local-based two-block stop spacing of a trolley service on Broadway, and therein a neighbourhood-based urban design intiative can break away from strictly station-oriented higher density nodes.

    In that light I feel Broadway’s growth as a regional “uptown” is an existing fact of life ans its future growth is inevitable, even in the face of great economic contractions from declining energy, because it’s places like Broadway where most of the near-term growth could be sustained most effectively, be it converting from growth to some kind of a steady state in the long run. That won’t occur in in low density suburbs which will likely be in deep trouble unless pertinent decisions are made now to accommodate sustainable urbanism at existing mall sites and on well-used arterials. Even then, the suffering at the periphery will probably be orders of magnitude greater than in these nodes and corridors served by effective transit.

    Broadway has been ready for high-capacity rapid transit and a pedestrian-scale streetscape treatment for 40 years. Burnaby, Port Moody and Coquitlam to be served by the Evergreen Line have a more recent and less complete build out. Broadway can accommodate a tremendous amount of more growth in a sustainable fashion. So can the other cities, but their history of car dependence is as deep as it is wide, and that is a paradigm that will be broken for them involuntarily with cliff face price spikes in fossil fuels if they don’t address it themselves in a real hurry.

    Here are the conclusions of a report by geoscientist David Hughes, who was commissioned by the city of Edmonton to look into the ramifications of peak oil on that city:

    “The City of Edmonton, along with most other major metropolitan areas in Canada, has been built in an era of cheap and abundant energy from fossil fuels. This has resulted in infrastructure which requires high levels of per capita energy consumption as a result of urban sprawl and population densities below the threshold for efficient mass transit, as well as personal levels of energy consumption unparalleled in human history. Supply chains for the City are also long, vulnerable to disruption, and based on the availability of cheap fossil fuels.

    “An analysis of global energy production trends reveals that the era of cheap fossil fuels is coming to an end. Production of conventional oil and gas in Alberta, which has fuelled Alberta’s and Edmonton’s prosperity for decades, is in decline. The only growth in the energy sector in the near- and medium-term is likely to be in the oil sands, which has historically provided low levels of royalties compared to conventional oil and gas. The peaking of global oil and gas production will mark a watershed for the current paradigm of continual economic growth. Although energy consumption per dollar of GDP has dropped over time, real growth in overall energy consumption is highly correlated to economic growth. This growth paradigm, which after all, like fossil fuels, has been with us for only a snapshot of time in human history, is now coming to an end. The challenge for cities like Edmonton [and all other cities] is to understand this and rethink all future investments in this context. Radically reducing the energy footprint of cities, shortening supply chains and increasing liveability will provide resilience against whatever the downslope of global energy production brings. Fossil fuels will be with us for a long time to come, but the growth paradigm they fuelled is almost over.”

    Here’s the link:

    In reading Hughes and others, like Thomas Homer Dixon, Vaclav Smil, James Howard Kunstler, Jeff Rubin etc., one can’t help conclude that our cities are in big trouble.

    Hughes, by the way, estimates that the world will experience the first set of fossil fuel decline and higher price tsumanmis between 2012 and 2015. He believes we’ll be living in a much different world by 2020, which is only 8 1/2 years away. The stats back him up.

    Peak oilers like me keep bringing this up, but when you look at the issue of scarcer and pricier energy and how it relates to the world-wide and local economies and our cities, it is a game changer … right down to our international trade, city boundaries with agriculture, neighbourhood markets and housing choices.

    In effect, you have two posts, Stephen, one on Broadway, the other on funding the Evergreen Line. Your statement, “Having totally hobbled municipal government, the province has the chutzpah to blame them for every delay. And all the talk about new sources of revenue seems to be just that. Talk, not action.” pretty well sums it up for me.

    But lets look at another city for some context. Paris is about to embark on one of the most ambitious expansions to urban mass transit ever conceived anywhere in the world. They are going to double the Metro network from 200+ km to 400+ km, and have recently committed $21 billion Euros ($30 billion — look at that number!). Most of that stupendous level of funding will come from senior governments. That works outto a per capita spending of about $2,600 in a region with 11.5 million people. It is worthy to note that the existing 200 km of Metro serves a Central Paris population a little less than twice as large as our 2.4 million people. And the per capita spending on transit here is a tiny, tiny fraction of that proposed for new transit there.

    I note that most of this expenditure is for grade-separated Metro lines, some of which will be automated and elevated in the suburbs, not for street level slow trams which currently serve well in limited local areas, but not on a regional basis.

    Here’s a line to Yonah Fremark’s post on this topic:

    I’m not saying that we need to break the bank taking SkyTrain out to Chilliwack and Whistler, but the per capita transit expenditures in Greater Vancouver pale by comparison to this courageous demonstration of real leadership in Europe. And they have deep experience with a variety of transit modes and know how to best aportion them based on quality of service before anything else.


    June 1, 2011 at 10:31 am

  7. Stephen,

    here read that 50% of 99B patrons travel to central Broadway…and all UBC student doesn’t board at Commercial…

    Transit uses east of Arbutus could be as heavy as West, but East of Arbutus, the Broadway corridor include also all radial routes, 4,7,14 and 44, in addition of the tangential ones 9,99B and 84.

    Lewis, I was thinking of you when I was talking of the perspective on Broadway…and you are right on pacific Bld. It is a disaster!

    It was very instructive to see the sketch of Elizabeth in that respect: Why you see is no what you get!

    Why? Somebody screwed it… and screwed it big time…who and why?

    In “The boulevard book” by the lecturer, there is a section on Octavia Bld in San Francisco reading this about side lanes:
    “…alternative versions of the design were presented: one in which the side access road went straight to the intersecting streets and one in which there are breaks in the median before and after each intersection. The urban designers preferred the first version, and so did the citizen groups.”

    So Octavia boulevard side lane are designed like it, (like found in Paris and elsewhere).

    Guess, what as been choosen for pacific Boulevard?

    that is one mistake among too many to enumerate…

    yes someone has screwed this boulevard…and screwed it big time

    and it could be very interesting, even utterly necessary, to have a lecture from City of Vancouver on who is the responsible of this disaster and why he did that and why we let it happen?

    It is indeed very important to recognize past mistakes if we want to progress. If we don’t understand what has gone wrong with Pacific: why we should believe City of Vancouver is capable to do a better job on a much more complex piece as Broadway?


    June 1, 2011 at 10:23 pm

  8. Voony, no one is ever going to confess to that. The question only occurred to me after the session, but I don’t think I would have posed it on the microphone if it had jelled during the session. What’s the point? Isn’t it already clear that there is a culture at play that has its own set of references?

    I worry that they are not listening.

    Take for example: Granville Street (which was supposed to be a Jacobs design); and the Carrall Street connector. And disregard in the process the vital connection between transit implementation and better neighbourhood design.


    June 1, 2011 at 11:08 pm

  9. Adding to Stephen’s concern that transportation planning must be integral to urban design, the impression I was left with the other night is that in Vancouver we are planning one transit line at a time. The Silos are alive and well, thank you very much. Inside the Engineering Silo, no “overall” system is being talked about in the open.

    If Patrick Condon has it right, for the price of a bored tunnel under Broadway we can build the full BC Electric tram network we failed to fund when our governments opted for the Port Mann Gateway project.

    My group has been taking an integrated look at transportation planning & urban design in Vancouver’s historic neighbourhoods. We are still sifting through the results of the charrette that completed last Sunday, but those interested can follow progress here:

    MB has a point. The question may not be “either or” surface or bored tunnel technologies; but “both and” trolley BRT & subway. However, I can pull rank on the following statement:

    “… the rather thin assumption that linking SkyTrain to land use always leads exclusively to towers.”


    Separated above grade service leads to blight. Let’s meet at the Starbucks on Terminal Avenue and see for ourselves.

    I grew up in the Evergreen area, and find myself in a position of having friends in high places. I was told recently that Coquitlam is selling density to pay for above grade stations. My letter to the editors is not ready (it will go in a day or so), but now that the decision is put off to 2015 we have two cycles of civic elections to scare politicians into using common sense.

    Clearly, MB, the suburbs (and I include Surrey) sell density to pay for elevated service routed in places that are not within easy walking distance of existing middle-density and (in the case of Port Moody) high density zones.

    You all can help me with this question: How many trips per day can we have with BRT and LRT (Olympic Line)?

    We are told that Broadway buses deliver 100,000 trips. Is that a BRT target given better stations and signal priority? Will BRT exceed that? And what about LRT? Can we run two trains together and deliver 200,000 trips on the surface just like the Expo Line?

    The most important urban fact in all of this is that either BRT or LRT take up 2 lanes of traffic (not considering the stations). That is a reduction in vehicular use in the order of 20,000 adt. Depending on what is possible, LRT(Olympic Line) has the capacity to deliver up to 10x more daily trips in the same place.

    That combination is magic. Reduce car trips, pollution, soot, etc., and deliver many times more (do we know how many more?) trips on clean transit service.


    June 1, 2011 at 11:15 pm

  10. @ Lewis: “Separated above grade service leads to blight. Let’s meet at the Starbucks on Terminal Avenue and see for ourselves.”

    I’d rather meet at Caffe Artigiano on Granville x Dunsmuir because:

    * that area still has delightful heritage buildings immediately adjacent to not just the grade-separated SkyTrain but the grade-separated Canada Line

    * there is a better pedestrian realm on Granville now

    * CA has better coffee and they’re local

    Obviously we’ll agree that the way the provincial government has chosen to design the elevated guideway on long portions of the SkyTrain system is a form of blight. They aren’t exactly Roman aqueducts.

    But I’ll never agree with blanket and simplistic generalizations like “SkyTrain leads to blight.” You could isolate any ugly neighbourhood in any city served by any rail service (including cute Eurotrams)and say the same thing.

    Why the planners allow towers near the majority (but not all) SkyTrain stations is most likely a funtion of the structural and economioc preferences and habits of developers working within the confines of zoning bylaws. They are the ones who are conceiving the projects, applying for rezoning and permits, then building and selling them. There is also the simple arithmetic that towers afford more units on less land.

    My point is that yes, land use must be tied to transit for several beneficial reasons, but the form of development can be moved in any direction the planners and councillors choose. Even though it’s common practice, there is no universal law that states “Thou shalt build towers near SkyTrain.”

    Further, not all towers are bad. I love Bing Thom’s Surrey Centre which has done a lot to energize that city for the first time in generations. Surrey could use the help, but unfortunately the remaining architecture doesn’t meet the same standards. There is also the Marine Building downtown that is perhaps the best Art Deco building in Western Canada.

    Exemplify the best, criticize the worst if you want change. But if you want to transplant 18th century Europe to western North America… well, I’m afraid that dream will be limited to blog musings.

    It is up to people like us to convince the powers that be to lean toward human-scaled urbanism within the scope of improving public transit in ALL forms. And that form may well end up being Modernism, another one of your bugbears. But the existing paradigms may be difficult to change, one of them being the need for more time consuming and expensive neighbourhood workshops / charrettes, another expanding the purview from individual sites to the neighbourhood.

    Allow me to correct you: I didn’t refer to electric trolleys as “BRT” on Broadway. Though BRT may be useful in other applications, I believe it would be a waste of resources on Broadway because that corridor needs a major improvement in both regional and local transit service, and BRT will provide marginal gains at best.

    I think the neighbourhood local travel you and Patrick Condon have articulated is very important. But I believe it’s best met with the existing two-block bus stop (300m-400m) pattrern and more frequent service. This wouild be similar to but the articulated trolleys and bus stop bump outs on Main St while respecting Broadway’s very important need for commercial and pedestrian loading from the curb lanes at the sidewalk. I would also promote a final treatment that emphasizes the pedestrian realm with said bump outs, mid-block crosswalks, pocket plazas and parks, and wonderful materials and planting.

    But first comes a high-capacity subway to serve the regional needs that Condon and you seem to forget.


    June 2, 2011 at 12:20 pm

  11. The link between transportation and neighbourhood planning, or good urbanism, was made by a good friend of Alan Jacobs—Donald Appleyard. Appleyard worked on the San Francisco urban design plan with Jacobs in 1970. He published “Livable Streets” in 1980 and was killed shortly thereafter in a car accident in Athens, Greece. He was a Brit transplant working in Berkley, California.

    The cut-off in Appleyard’s measurements is near 8,000 adt (average daily trips). Beyond that point, as his neighbourhood mapping shows, starts a steady erosion on values of community & values of place. These include: defensible space or sense of territory (neighbours looking after the sidewalk & street); stress, nuisance, noise, pollution and physical danger; social functioning, or the number of acquaintances people developed on the same block; and recognition of local features which are more memorable when experienced on foot.

    Try this link, then scroll to the bottom for scans of two pages from “Livable Streets”:

    Traffic counts on Knight Street near the bridge are 66,000 adt. We can surmise up to 11,000 vehicles per lane is a upper limit for numbers of cars in our arterial streets.

    The good news is that if we add surface transit, then at the same time that we add trip capacity we also take cars off the arterials. As Stephen shows in the next post, removing cars is not an issue. From the point of view of “the right of way” traffic reroutes and finds a way. What we are really taking off the road are commuter trips. 8,000 trips per day is plenty of capacity for local traffic on neighbourhood streets—provided we achieve an even build out.

    The point about thinking about transit and neighbourhood design at the same time is that the wins are not all in transportation.

    1. As Appleyard shows us, we can map the effect of High Volumes of Traffic on the social functioning of the street and the neighbourhood.

    2. As Appleyard suggests, and my own anecdotal evidence shows, the soot that is kicked up by arterial volumes of traffic is severe. What we really need is Health Canada weighing in with a study of the effects to human health, and our Medical System, of breathing in that particulate matter.

    3. The case against the hydrocarbons and the effects of pollution on our global ecology is clear.

    4. We are less clear on the benefits of planting street trees, and measurement of the oxygen these produce. Neither have we determined the “filtering effect” of leaves trapping particulates and then dropping to the ground in the fall to be trucked away.

    As we have shown in our study of Vancouver’s Historic Quartiers (same link as above), is it any wonder that in the place where three arterials are separated by short blocks just 264-feet (four chain) long we find the greatest concentration of poverty?

    Zoning unliveable land for our most at risk population is part of the problem in the DTES.

    An integrated transportation strategy city wide would put LRT on Hastings as well as Broadway, and the provision of fast and efficient transit would be enough to take cars off the road. Cordova and Powell could return to two-way traffic; redesigned to function as neighbourhood streets; and home once again to viable and livable urban land.

    The story in the rest of our arterials is not as extreme. But it is not much different.


    MB let’s have a night at Caffe Artigiano for the Rees Bloggers. A little social functioning off-blog is in order. I’m good after 10 p.m. on weeknights. We could wear baseball caps and carry laptops.


    June 3, 2011 at 8:04 pm

  12. The other day Coquitlam council was nearly tarred and feathered by an angry crowd that had “only recently” found out that a (single) high-rise was planed for Austin and Blue Mountain, as the star of the badly needed renovation of the area.
    Funny but I learned about it months ago, thanks to the local free newspapers….

    I personally would prefer a row of 6-10 stories multi-use buildings, along both sides of Austin, on the several blocks east of Blue Mountain where there is a commercial area. Give a whole bunch of building owners and builders a chance….
    I haven’t heard about a badly needed full scale renovation of the Lougheed Mall, with housing on top.

    In Metro Vancouver it often looks like the cities wait until a builder spring on them a project in quasi secrecy, instead of the cities taking the lead and telling the building community (as do many towns on several continents) “We would like to see on this area buildings with so many stories here, so many there, along with a park here, other amenities there?”…in other words a planning that ensure an area will work as a well-thought harmonious community, instead of the mismatch we have in too many of the newest areas.

    During an Evergreen line “private open house” 2 years ago in our small building on North Road we asked the TransLink spokesperson why TransLink wasn’t working as a landowner/developer to redevelop the area around and above a station as an income-producing venture, as do transit companies in Japan and Europe. He obviously had no idea such a thing was done. But then he had never seen a LRT, a subway…except in movies..

    Right night the Council of the Greater Bordeaux (France) is starting the first phase of development of a big area located by the historical main rail station and also just across the river. By 2030 it will house 30 000 people.
    The impetus is the completion in 2015 of the TGV line that will cut the length of the 550 km trip from Paris to 2 1/4 hrs instead of the current 3 1/4 (it was 6 hrs until the early 1980s). By 2020 the current rail station will have more than doubled in surface, with the addition of a huge new wing on the other side of its late 19th century huge glass-roofed shed.

    The Mayor of Bordeaux (he is also the current minister of Foreign affairs), like his predecessors, can hardly be called a Socialist by the way. More like a pleasantly pink bike-riding Conservative.

    JR (Japan Rail) and other companies are building right now phase 1(of 3) on what used to a huge freight yard right by the JR Osaka station.

    Red frog

    June 4, 2011 at 1:01 am

  13. […] Broadway. Stephen Rees provides a good overview of SFU City Programme’s Designing Broadway dialogue on May […]

  14. “I personally would prefer a row of 6-10 stories multi-use buildings, along both sides of Austin, on the several blocks east of Blue Mountain”

    Red frog

    My first view of Mt. Baker back in 1970 was from the drugstore in the shopping strip you describe. The snow was “white” then not “pink”. I’d like to see “white” snow on Baker from Austin Avenue one day soon.

    But, we have to talk about “aspect ratio”. The height of the fronting buildings should be set by the width of the fronting street. Around here an aspect ratio of 1:2 has been used since pioneer times. Half as high as the road is wide. This takes care of having sun in the winter; the ability to pollutants to disperse overtop of the “streetwall”; and still provides enough development envelope to build high density quartiers.

    The same concern expressed in relation to the station stop gave rise to Transit Oriented Planning (TOD). Rather than put a tower over the station (Tokyo; Toronto) the planning builds high-density human-scale within a 5 minute walking radius of the station.


    June 6, 2011 at 10:45 pm

  15. @ Lewis, Knight Street may be a poor choice for your argument because it is the major truck link betweem the port (Burrard Inlet) and Richmond warehouses. Not that truck transport and office park / warehouse zones will survive peak oil without being drastically diminished over the next decade or so, but the trucks are probably skewing the counts away from cars a little more than other arterials.

    I believe ALL our arterials will have decreased traffic in direct proportion to increases in liquid fossil fuel prices. This will clear the way for significantly increasing existing transit (in Vancuover that means electric trolleys) and new kinds of surface transport. I would hope the officials have the sense to not waste resources on things like displacing existing bus service directly with new light rail, but place the resources where they will result in much higher ridership in direct proportion to improvements ni quality and frequency of service. Therein a common demoninator should be established, like a per capita expenditure based on ridership expectations.

    In that regard, Broadway gets a high-capacity subway and improved local trolley service, all Vancouver arterials get improved trolley service, the suburbs get light rail on those overly generous arterials, and light rail seeks a slower, semi-regional middle ground between the densest cities on the Burrard Peninsula (e.g. UBC-New Westminster via King Edward / Canada Way / Kingsway). In the latter, the Vancouver streetcar project should be included.

    I do have a problem with generalizations and blanket remedies. Knight is not Broadway, nor is it Main St or Barnet Hwy or 200th St. Neither are the communities they pass through. Each require a thorough analysis and a tailor-made solution. And our eye shuold never be taken from the carbon clock.

    I will agree with the main thrust of your argument that we need to compete with the car in terms of space and money. We will likely disagree on the finer points of how to acheive that.


    June 7, 2011 at 12:14 pm

  16. MB it’s coffee time. We are essentially on the same page.

    Lewis N. Villegas

    June 8, 2011 at 11:11 pm

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