In Review: Transportation Changes in Grandview-Woodland (May 2)

Guest speaker Lon LaClaire from the City of Vancouver provided many updates to upcoming transportation changes in and around Grandview-Woodland at the GWAC meeting on Monday, May 2nd, 2016. Mr. LaClaire was also able to answer many questions from the audience during a wide-ranging question and answer session. Detailed minutes of the meeting are posted below for future reference. Thanks to all who attended and joined the discussion!

Notes from GWAC Public Meeting on May 2, 2016

Transportation in Grandview Woodland

Presentation by Lon LaClaire:  Director of Transportation, City of Vancouver

A lot is going on in transportation at the City, and a lot that potentially affects GW.  Some projects, are in the implementation phase; on others, the City is still developing plans. 

The Transportation 2040 plan ( is linked to the Healthy City Strategy, Economic Action Plan, and Greenest City Action Plan.  Transportation is a big part of achieving those other objectives.  Transportation 2040 targets include having 1/2 of all trips be by foot, bike, or transit by 2020. By 2040, 2/3 of all trips will be by bike, transit, or on foot.  The City needs to reduce the proportion and total number of motor vehicle trips, and has to accommodate more trips every single year as more people move here.  Our road network is largely built out, so we cannot double or really increase at all the number of car trips.  Therefore we need to move people by other modes, and to reduce the number of vehicles in total by 2040.  We need to reallocate a bit of the road space toward walking, cycling and transit. 

Our roads are generally becoming safer.  We want to make sure this continues and have a zero fatality safety target.

High level directions of 2040 Plan include:

  • Use land use to encourage shorter trips
  • Make walking and cycling safe convenient and comfortable for everyone (‘AAA’- all ages and abilities)
  • Ensure streets and sidewalks support vibrant public life
  • Support transit improvements
  • Manage road network effectively and make it easier to drive less;
  • Support movement of goods and services
  • Encourage sustainable transportation choices, and safe and respectful behaviour.

The city wants to allow streets to become social and cultural spaces and to support transit improvements to increase capacity and ensure fast service. 

Projects: The City is in a 4+ year planning process that has involved the Citizens’ Assembly, Emerging Directions and other plans in GW.   These all include transportation ideas.

Our key draft directions are: safety, vibrant and shared spaces, a “complete street” design for Commercial drive including walking and cycling improvements, especially south of 1st.  In the future, the Millennium line will be extended to create the Broadway Subway.  There will be a new B-Line on Hastings.  The Evergreen Line will free up some buses and they will be deployed along Hastings.  There is also support for car-sharing and bike sharing.

GW has highest cycling rates in City.  Within 5 years, we want to improve or build 14 cycling routes.  Included in five-year outlook is Commercial Drive as an AAA (“all ages and abilities) facility.

We are working on a “complete streets” strategy/policy: Rather than going to Council every time we need to widen a sidewalk, etc, the complete streets policy would identify guidelines and goals for a particular area.  Complete Streets include facilities that support all ages, abilities, and modes of travel, including such things as protected bike lanes and raised cross walks.

Public bike share will launch this summer and not be available in this neighbourhood.  Phase II may extend service to include Commercial Drive

False Creek Flats plan will affect the neighbourhood.  The city is trying to improve N-S connectivity between Clark and Main.   A new East-West route through the Flats will intersect at Clark, forcing traffic North or South.  This will be a change in neighbourhood traffic patterns.  Within the Flats, train crossings are at grade, so we will probably need a new bridge at Malkin or National and further separations between cyclist/pedestrians and trains will have to be considered.

The Viaducts “replacement” project is still several years away.  A new road network will better serve the new False Creek neighbourhood and connect the surrounding neighbourhoods in a more traditional way. With the Viaducts down, a reduction in traffic using the Venables, Victoria, 1st Ave, route is expected.  A new route through the Flats may also reduce traffic on the northern part of Commercial Dr. and Victoria. If volumes on Commercial Drive are reduced enough the city could reinstate parking on the N. Section of Commercial.  However, this might mean more traffic on Clark, especially North of 2nd Ave.

Cycling Safety has been studied on Commercial Drive and there are a higher than average no of collisions. The city is interested in a bike route on Commercial Drive.  There are higher than average collisions on Commercial.  Mitigation could be major or minor, not sure.  A lot of people in the area do bike.  The city is studying whether it could reallocate some of South of 1st along Commercial for bikes. 

The city is undertaking studies: license plate tracking, parking density counts, to collect data in order to understand the impact of any changes.  The hope was to be doing this work side by side with the GW Plan, but other priorities got in the way.  The city is adding more staff, but still won’t get to plans in this neighbourhood as quickly as hoped. 

Question and Answer Session:

Q:  A few years ago decision was that N of 1st Ave. there would be no bike lane, but one on Salsbury instead.  Is that still true?  How will people get to Salsbury?

A:  North of 1st Ave, Commercial is too narrow.  To add a bike lane would require removing parking on both sides.  But South of 1st, the street is wider.  Could get a bike lane N of Gravely and then along to one of the nearby streets.  But, this will also depend on feasibility and cost of interventions.

Q: Every redevelopment along Victoria Dr has been made to account for a 7 foot widening that was meant to be for a bike lane.  But, you also said that you won’t decide between Commercial and Victoria bike routes until the GW Plan.  So why are you acting on the Victoria Dr setback if you haven’t made a decision?

A: There are 52 streets where we are pursuing that, for better or worse. These are obligations set out in bylaw and it is a requirement for new buildings.  But if the city determined it didn’t need it, then it could apply to the Board of Variance to waive the requirement..  Unless we change that bylaw, the city is required to act on it if there is a rezoning.  It allows that if the City wants to purchase the land for any reason, it won’t impact the building.  We haven’t removed a building line yet.  On some streets, they’ve been entirely acquired because of the amount of development.  On others, very limited acquisition. 

Q: Can you explain what is being thought about for Victoria Dr?

A: Victoria has some good qualities for a bike route, but we haven’t decided yet.  We’re considering it.

Q: Will that affect parking?

A: Depends on what we do. 

Q: 10th Ave between Commercial and Victoria has been closed (to cars) for a year.  Will that continue?

A: If there is support for that, we could continue it.

Q: There seems to be some opportunity to move bikes through the Safeway property if it is redeveloped.  This could increase cycling on North-south routes.  Is that being considered?

A: That’s a good point.  We will be considering various options.

Q: Assumption that on-street parking is sacred.  Makes me question how much we want to get people out of cars.  On Commercial, if we took away one lane of parked cars, we would have room for wider sidewalks and bikes.  Same on Broadway, if we made dedicated bus lanes.

A: If we underprice parking and provide a lot of it, cars will use it.  What we like to do is data gathering first.  Our initial scan is that there is not a lot of surplus parking.  Downtown, we are removing parking.  But that’s because we can see lots of empty parking spaces.  We want to be careful, charge appropriately, and have about 15% of spaces available.  For instance 10th Ave. may require removal of some parking.

Q: Isn’t it time to look at the longer view? 

A: We want to remove parking spaces, but not where it causes undue hardship.

Q: Bike lanes along Commercial Drive are good, but where does it go after 1st?  Parked cars act as a buffer between pedestrians and traffic and to slow down traffic.  And, what about parking garages?  Is the City planning any of those on the Drive?

A: There has to be a lot of study before we make any decisions.

Q: In downtown Vancouver, car traffic has declined as population increases. Is that true? 

A: Yes.  We saw a big change when Canada Line opened.  But, also more people went downtown.  Also construction of more transit will reduce traffic.

Q: As bike infrastructure gets better, people will use it.  I don’t currently feel comfortable riding on Commercial.  I think cyclists would make up the difference (from any loss of drivers to the area if bike lanes interrupt traffic).

Q: Where did you get your data about cyclists in GW

A: Our own studies

Q: Seniors will not travel on a bike.  Most of my business customers are seniors.

A: We have to consider demographic change and relate it to travel behavior.  Age and income are the biggest indicators of propensity to take transit, walk, cycle or drive. 

Q: Something to consider when you put in bike lanes.  There are different kinds of businesses.  Some businesses sell heavy and large items that can’t be easily carried on a bike.  To say businesses are just afraid is ignoring the fact that we pay 3.5x the tax for half the service.  What can we do so that everyone gets along a little better (e.g. cyclists and drivers). 

A: We are doing education

Q: I’m a business owner excited about bike lanes.   How in depth is your data?  I’ve heard that business owners are often afraid of the change, but don’t end up seeing the negative repercussions they expect.

A: We can do exit surveys of people who frequent businesses.  We can also do license plate checks to see how many people are coming from other communities. 

Q: I want to share a story about the Granville Mall.  After the Granville Mall was established, there was no vehicular traffic and no parking.  My family had a business in that location.  Business dropped significantly.  We opened store in 1963, but by end of the 1970s, 30% drop in sales.  Parking is important because people need to carry things.  The data when the government gives it to you is wrong.  Do not get involved with the disaster on Cambie St.  Fraser St. has free parking.

A: We would appreciate help gathering data.  That will give you an insight into the data.

Q: Would the city look at the percent of parking removed downtown in comparison to parkades and in comparison to how much might be removed from Commercial Dr.?  Will the City also reduce property tax to account for the loss of parking.

A: We are not looking at options that remove parking in any significant way.  I don’t think that we would entertain ideas that remove a lot of parking on Commercial.  There are not a lot of excess surface parking lots or underground parking.

Q: I work at the credit union at Commercial and 7th.  Short term parking is very useful to us.  Also, redirection of traffic will positively impact some streets, but negatively impact others.  Will you spell out which streets will be negatively affected?  Malkin is important for food distribution.

A: Clark from 2nd to Hastings will see an increase. 

Q: Question about 6th Ave near Grandview School.  You put in a flashing light.  People are turning left onto Woodland to go up to Broadway.  It’s a mess.  Will you look into that?

A: I haven’t looked at that yet.  We do want to improve Woodland.  I will look at that.

Q: Hi, I’m a bicycle hating, car driving guy.  I initially was against the bike lanes.  I own a business, record store on Commercial Drive.  But, after looking at it, especially after getting a “the communists are coming” tea party survey from the BIA, I did a lot of research.  Bike lanes are the future and where we’re going to make some money.   That’s what I want to do.  I want to make more money.  Is there any way you can push facts and figures out there?  I don’t want this to be like a Trump rally where everyone gets emotional, but can you present some facts.  I’ve seen nothing from the City about the benefits of bike lanes except from people who love bikes.  People who love bikes are not going to convince anyone.

A: You’re right.  It’s our responsibility to present data that is clean and simple.  But, data is not that simple or clean.  It’s not easy for us.  There will be some data release on Wednesday when the Transportation department releases their annual monitoring data.  Information will be on our site.

Q: Yes, the point I’m making is you are showing a map, but giving no information to evaluate the options. 

Q: Can you do a health impact assessment for 1st Ave once the viaducts come down and all potential changes on transportation in this neighbourhood. 

A: We have done this for other areas and will consider this.

Q: 20 to 30% of vehicle traffic coming to the Drive is from the North Shore.  Produce is cheaper.  Commercial Drive is a destination.  Those people generate income for us.  Without them, we won’t be here.  And the people who own those buildings are not going to collect their rent and pay the property tax.  If you’ve been on the Drive for 15 years, you have a voice.

Q: We can create a street that is inclusive including parking.  I’m hearing a measured approach from you Lon.  Inclusivity is something the City should care about.  No one is suggesting that we prohibit cars or parking on the street.  Many business owners who’ve talked to me want to see an inclusive street that includes cyclists.  Biking on a side street will not get to your shopping destination.  We need to think about inclusivity in our neighbourhood.  People are getting to shops in many different ways.  The loss of parking does not need to happen.  15% of people in this neighbourhood use cycling as main mode of transport.  50% do not use cars as mode of transport.

Q: As businesses, we have a greater stake in it because we have “ skin in the game.” The bridge over the cut is a disaster because of the street vendors.  People who come to my restaurant are elderly.  My business is not an experiment.  I can’t afford to experiment when my property tax comes in.  I employ people.  I ride, I have no problem.  The existing bike routes are fine. 

Q: I own a business and I have to drive to work.  I can’t lose any parking. 

Q: We’re still throwing out anecdotal evidence.  I want facts.

Q: We love the shops on the Drive.  They cannot suffer potential losses.  Only big corporates can afford to lose money.  Small mom and pop shops can’t. 

Q: You might be right, but I want data

Q: The Drive can be a destination for cyclists.

Q: If you are doing an exit survey, data could be skewed.  I would cycle to the Drive if it was more comfortable to do so. 

A: Good point.  We’ll take that into account.

Q: Do you know the number of bike accidents that happen in the City each year. 

A:  it’s the serious accidents that the transportation department can rely on for data (because they are reported?).    About half collisions for cyclists don’t involve a vehicle. 

These notes were compiled by GWAC members at the meeting and are, of necessity, condensed.