This evening’s Grandview Woodland Area Council meeting concerned a Motion approved by City Council last year (https://council.vancouver.ca/20210519/documents/pspc20210519min.pdf, page 18) to “develop a vision for Commercial Drive as a complete street”, with a focus on walking.
We were supposed to have both Paul Storer, Transportation Director, and Lon LaClaire, general manager engineering, from the City to share their thoughts, but LaClaire could not attend, and Storer was only available for 45 minutes. However, between statements by Nick Pogor of the BIA and Storer, a very good turnout of local residents asked a significant number of relevant questions.
Paul Storer made clear that the initiative for this development came from the BIA. He noted that there was no grand plan or capital budget to change the Drive, but they were looking at “practical interventions” that could be accomplished in the next few years. These include experimenting with bus bulges on the Drive south of First, eventually losing one lane of traffic in each direction which would be replaced with a wider sidewalk, and improving parking on the Drive.
Nick Pogor of the BIA noted that several changes being contemplated (Britannia, Safeway, traffic calming) are in fact parts of other City initiatives rather than the Pedestrian First motion. He noted that new bike locks will be available in July and praised the new garbage cans that were part of “branding” the Drive. He also mentioned there are dreams of bringing light rail to the Drive at some point in the future.
Several residents were concerned that changes in traffic patterns on the Drive would inevitably result in larger traffic flows through the smaller neighbourhood streets. One suggestion from a resident was to block 3rd Avenue west of the Drive to reduce short cutting. Storer agreed that short cutting was taking place and was something they were concerned about. This is a problem in a number of districts, and they are currently trying to look at traffic calming initiatives in one or two neighbourhoods each year.
Another resident complained about the lack of way-finding signs in the neighbourhood, and she sought more animation to encourage more visitors.
A number of residents complained that the current Britannia Renewal process planned to have Brit’s entrance on Venables rather than the Drive. There was also some surprise to discover that the City’s senior Transportation Director had little or no connection with such a major re-development as Britannia. This led a couple of residents to wax lyrical about the lack of connection between the multitude of conflicting City plans.
As it became clear that a reduction in traffic (both flow and speed) was a consideration in this “pedestrian first” concept, one resident stated that she needed her car to shop on the Drive and she thought the sidewalks were plenty wide enough. Storer noted a City survey that showed almost 80% of shoppers on the Drive walked or took transit.
Several residents discussed improvements that are needed in the provision of bike lanes around the Drive, including the provision of more bike parking between parking meters. Others mentioned better rain awnings.
One interesting idea put forward by a resident was for a “mobility lane.” I assume that is part of the sidewalk and I certainly support it. On the same tack, several residents (including me) called for there to be sitting benches on each block.
Steve Bohus of GWAC and CityHallWatch requested that future design discussions take advantage of technology and be more open and transparent, and thus accessible to residents.
A number of us pointed out that the BIA had not approached what we consider the main stakeholder — the 30,000 residents — before presenting their ideas to City Council. Whether they will bother in the future we will see, though history does not suggest a positive outcome.