Public Spaces

Public Spaces and Streets – Summer 2013

Downtown Vancouver has a wealth of fine public spaces designed for the hosting of stage events, predominantly music and dance. Each is adjacent to a street intended for the movement of emergency vehicles, buses, trucks, motor vehicles generally, bicycles, etc; with adjacent walkways for pedestrians. The grid pattern is reasonably efficient given the available space, when it is allowed to function as designed. Here are some photos of these public event places and streets taken in summer 2013.

Davie, Denman, and Robson Parklets

C.B.C. Lunchtime Music

Jazz Festival

Robson Street

Granville Busway

Street Festivals

Runs and Walks



Davie, Denman, and Robson Parklets

Bus routes 5, 6, and 23 carry the same number of peak passengers at burrard as the 99 at sasamat! And they are busy 365 days a year, not only 120.

Davie, denman, and robson form a 4 lane traffic loop which provided good street car transit service in the 1940’s and probably many years before. Today, 2013, at peak times four lanes are required to move traffic at a tedious crawl, averaging barely more than a walking pace, with a potential red light at virtually every intersection. Denman is choked nightly with lions gate commuters. Most of the side streets within the loop are closed to through traffic.

Transit in the west end functions as modestly as it does in spite of traffic congestion primarily because the because the entire west end is within a mile of granville street. With the convoluted summer thurlow loop of the #5, it takes 20 minutes to get from english bay to granville. Even a bus traveling at a walking pace is preferred by many to walking up the hill at broughton.

As of November, 2013 Council is on the verge of accepting the “West End Community Plan” plan which would concrete in the reduction of the essential 4 lanes to 3 or even 2 in places in order to create ‘parklets’ and to villagize the streets.

One of these 2 lane villages would begin on davie at burrard. This is right across the street from a pending cd-1 for 1,100 additional, mostly residential, parking places; part of the 10,000 places being added at north false creek.

Tom-Tom recently promoted Vancouver from a 3 way tie with San Francisco and Los Angeles for the worst traffic in North America, to sole possession of 1st place. Congratulations Council, you’re number 1.

Councils remove traffic lanes throughout the west end, on robson at howe in summer, pt grey road, and the granville busway daytime weekends, and on thurlow. This directly disrupts service on bus routes 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 14, 16, 17, 22, and 50. Increased traffic congestion adversely affects service on the 23, and 44 and to a lesser extent the 9, 84, and 99.

Appendix A contains the word “transit” 50 times. It refers to initiating communication with Translink in order to improve capacity, reliability, and service frequency in the west end, by inference labeling them as currently inadequate and placing the responsibility for this on Translink and Coast Mountain Bus. But the existing capacity is equal to the 99. Peak interval is 5 minutes in both directions. Delaying the buses will only reduce capacity.

How can Council adopt a community plan which states, without any substantiation or references, that transit which is important in this community is inadequate, a repot which will cripple peak transit and impede it all day and evening, and which states that there has been no communication with Translink?

If this plan is adopted today, concrete and greenery will be put in place, then the providers of transit in the City will be invited to the table. With only 1 lane in each direction to share with trucks and cars, they can do nothing but throw up their hands, perhaps abandoning surface transit in the west end and extending the expo line to English Bay.

Council should be initiating the efforts to facilitate bus service in the west end.

Picnic tables on bute street provide a gathering place which does not suffer from being adjacent to traffic and parking, as almost all ‘sidewalk cafes’ in the City do, and any extension of the establishments on davie would. Villaging can easily proceed on side streets where traffic calming is already in effect without trashing transit.


C.B.C. Lunch Time Music

The CBC hosts a variety of musical groups at lunch hour each weekday throughout the summer on an outdoor stage at its hamilton street facility. There is a raised stage providing good visibility for everyone. A transparent permanent canopy keeps the musicians dry if the Vancouver sky gives a sprinkle, which did not happen for at least the first 40 days in 2013. 250 people lounge around on the concrete planters or the grass, or merely stand. The writer has observed good attendance but never crowding. If the attendance were to exceed the capacity, the adjacent street could be closed to accommodate at least 200 more.

Hamilton street in front of the CBC stage served the public library directly across the street. Canada Post’s sorting facility is on the next block.

Queen Elizabeth theatre directly adjacent on georgia has a patio larger than the CBC’s. It would probably accommodate 500 but is virtually always empty. There is no permanent stage.

Here are photos of CBC plaza being used as intended, the virtually always empty Queen Elizabeth plaza, and hamilton street being used for the delivery of goods and services, one of its intended uses. This combination is used as intended.


Jazz Festival

A 10 day annual music event drawing tens of thousands. The festival uses David Lam park, granville island, north and south sides of the art gallery, the ice rink, and many indoor venues. It closed howe street adjacent to the art gallery one saturday and one sunday in 2013, and a block on drake.

Here are photos of the festival. Also a photo of georgia adjacent to the north lawn, struggling to serve the lions’ gate buses, general traffic diverted from or avoiding the robson street closure, and construction further east, but remaining open while the festival is on. The lions’ gate buses, such as the 250 in the photograph, carry more 90 minute a.m. peak passengers on georgia than the 99 b-line on broadway at granville.


Robson Street – block 51 – viva

Robson street was a 4 lane street. It was cut to 2 lanes for exclusive use of the buses, then 2 lanes for all traffic. As of summer 2013, it is closed to traffic for the season to become the corduroy road. There is talk of closing it permanently.

Photos: the road in the a.m. peak showing 2 people sitting on the corduroy road while 20 buses carrying 1,000 passengers divert. An afternoon photo showing 3 dozen; the south plaza of the art gallery, empty as always; the stage in front of the ice rink as used for the jazz festival; the ice rink itself, well used as it always is.

Photos: #5 bus taking a convoluted route: robson, thurlow, smythe, burrard, pender; 4 turns in 1 kilometre. With robson closed it takes as long to get to granville from denman and nelson as it does from metrotown or bridgeport.

Traffic diverting off of robson to hornby, 3 cars per minute because the pedestrian light uses far too high a % of each cycle.

Georgia street with lineup for the 1 lane turning onto howe. Much of this traffic would be using robson if even 2 lanes were open.


Granville Busway

The granville busway is the Region’s busiest bus corridor. In the peak direction in the 90 minute a.m. peak it carries more passengers into the downtown core than the Canada line, at least as many as the millennium or king george lines westbound, and dwarfs the 99 b-line at the infamous commercial-broadway stop. It is one of the best transit initiatives the City has ever done. Please see a separate topic elsewhere on the site.

The busway is also busy on weekends. On a summer saturday, 100,000 one-way trips are served by buses passing through the downtown core. A dozen routes use the busway.

Viva is a City project to convert streets into “Vibrant People Places”. It’s largest component to date is to close the busway all day saturday and sunday throughout the summer, pushing the buses onto howe and seymour. A temporary sound stage is sometimes set up ($$), along with some temporary seating. There may be booths and food trucks. These entertainers would be much better accommodated on the Queen Elizabeth plaza, the ice rink, and the north lawn of the art gallery; where much of the props are permanently in place. Photos are weekdays showing how many buses use the busway.


Street Festivals

Khatalano days, 4th venue, Greek days, Italian days, the list is great.


Runs and Walks

Again the streets are closed to buses




The 2013 Council claims credit for its policy of encouraging outdoor entertainment in the downtown area in the summer through the Viva project. In claiming credit for sponsoring culture, they seem to forget that previous Councils and other bodies demonstrated their interest in similar activities by building or encouraging the building of outdoor venues!

Previous Councils understood that venues like the plazas at the Queen Elizabeth, CBC, public library, hydro building, and the new and previous court houses were great for events, that’s why they built or approved them. Previous Councils also understood that streets function well for the movement of vehicles: emergency, transit, goods and services, and general traffic.

The 2011-2014 majority on Council have lost sight of that basic fact. They focus on individual goals while losing sight of the big picture. Disruption of bus service seems to mean nothing to them.

Interestingly, the two major streets closed for Viva have no parking meters, so there is no loss of parking revenue.




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