Granville Island Carless Redux

We've all noticed it - the constant traffic jam and parking battle that is Granville Island. Still, in 2004, it was named One of the World's Great Places, but I'd say the perpetual queue of sheetmetal, exhaust, and darting drivers stop it from living up to its potential as a truly great destination and public space. The time has come to remove cars from the island.

The key component of such a move would have to be easy and frequent transit connections to the island - something that has been sorely lacking until now. Currently, only one bus route (the 51) comes near, but the closest stop is not actually on the island - it drops passengers two blocks away. The #4 also comes within 4 blocks of the island.. close, but not psychologically part of the island at all. In either case, transit users have to navigate the jam of cars under the Granville Bridge before entering the island proper. The False Creek Ferries provide a great direct link to the island proper.

The Downtown Streetcar (seen here as the "2010 Streetcar") will finally come within shouting distance of truly connecting the island with the rest of the region's transportation system. The streetcar will connect to both the Canada Line (at Cambie Street / Olympic Village Station), and the Expo Line (at Main Street / Science World).

Unfortunately, since the streetcar is using the same track as the previous 'Historic Railway' (though ripped up and rebuilt - most of this work has already been completed), the terminus station drops people off right between where the #51 and the #4 do. Which is to say, not quite on the island.

The way to do this right would be to extend the streetcar to Granville Island itself, and to run the streetcar in a short loop around the island. This is what streetcars can do extremely well -- operate at grade in areas of low vehicular traffic. Only then would you be able to close the island to traffic. Once the cars are removed, other bus routes (possibly from Fairview and Kits) could terminate on the island, since there would be no more car congestion for transit to battle with. Delivery vehicles and vehicles for the disabled could still have access, of course, and they would have an easier time of getting in and out as a result of the changes.

In addition, it seems that the island is currently rebuilding one of its old parking garages. Would it not be in the island's best interest to convert these garages to commercial office and studio spaces instead? Building out the open parking lots would also provide more studio, retail, and commercial space, improving the diversity of goods and services available on the island. This would bring more rental / lease revenue to the CMHC, and generate more tax revenue for all levels of government in the process - as well as attract more people to the island for entertainment, work, and shopping purposes. For the City of Vancouver, this would add much needed commercial and retail space right in the center of the city, rather than at its edges or in suburban commercial/industrial parks.

The fact that the federal government owns and manages the island might even lend it some priority when it comes to those 'shovel ready' infrastructure projects everyone was talking about a few months ago. I doubt it would cost a drop in the bucket compared to the Canada Line, the UBC line, or the Port Mann bridge replacement. Much of the work on the tram line is already being done or has already been completed as part of the upcoming olympic display - this would only need to be an extension of that line. It could easily be argued this would be more immediately useful to the city than an extension into Yaletown or Coal Harbour.

I'm surprised this hasn't been discussed openly already.. perhaps it has, and I'm not aware of it. Maybe the fact the island is owned and managed by the feds, through the CMHC, would make it bureaucratically difficult to run public transit to the island. If so, some outdated agreements obviously need to be revisited.

The time has come to build Granville Island into the pedestrian public space it should have been right from the start, or at least from its time of redevelopment.

>> photo by Geoff604