Vancouver's "Greenest City" Plan 2020

In February this year, Gregor Robertson convened the "Greenest City Action Team". A bit over a week ago, their '2020 Action Plan' was released, which is intended to be a plan on how to become the greenest major city on the planet by that date. I've finally had enough time to skim over it - I'll focus on the transportation bit for the moment.

My immediate reaction to at least the transit portion of the report is: this is not yet an 'action' plan, but more of a framework of ideas, upon which to hang a real action plan. It still feels a bit theoretical, and doesn't really include specific actions to be taken. Bold targets have been set, however, and the 'Green mobility' target is that by 2020, more than 50% of trips will be walked, or made via bicycle or public transit.

According to the report, the modal share for these currently hovers around a combined 20%. More than doubling this number, to me, really means at least trebling the number of regular cyclists. Cycling is the most cost-effective mode of transport to promote and enable, as well as the mode that the city truly has responsibility over.

The report does seem to address the fact that the city has little say over public transit in the region, in that public transit is not placed in top priority:
The top priorities should continue to be walking, followed by cycling, then public transit, while building no additional road capacity.

When it does directly address public transit, the report focuses more on regional ideas it supports, and local areas seen as needing improved infrastructure. As Stephen Rees has mentioned, this reads more like a wish list than an action plan:

Vancouver urgently needs a rapid transit line along the congested Broadway corridor. The Downtown Streetcar project should get the green light, and express bus services should be expanded on busy routes (e.g. Commercial/Victoria). Electric express buses should be used on Hastings, 4th Avenue, Broadway/West 10th Ave, and 41st Ave. Waterfront Station should be redeveloped into an accessible and attractive multimodal transportation hub. Local ferry services should be encouraged and supported.

It's interesting that the words above seem to have been carefully chosen -- a "SkyTrain" line was not directly mentioned. This seems to mean, to me at least, that there is still a chance to come up with a better solution for the Broadway corridor, as I believe SkyTrain is not the best solution - and certainly not the most cost-effective one. A rapid bus system (basically an improvement of the existing B-Line) would be the best method. This, however, is not within the responsibility or control of the city of Vancouver. Putting forth other possible solutions might be, instead of demanding the most expensive one.

The downtown streetcar should indeed go ahead as well - though where funding for this project might actually come from is anyone's guess. How would the Downtown Streetcar look if the City were to fund it themselves?

Perhaps these issues could be combined to take care of a few gaps in the network around False Creek:
- Run a 'rapid bus' along broadway
- Use the tram to connect Kits Beach, Granville Island, the Canada Line at Cambie, The Expo line at Main, and SFU/Woodward's in the DTES.

I completely agree with the direction the city is taking on this - the smartest thing to do would be to focus on areas upon which the city can take immediate action: cycling and walking.

New York has done amazing things with some big ideas and a little paint - in the recent discussion with Janette Sadik-Khan, she noted that they focused on the things that could be accomplished quickest - avoiding projects with a heavy construction requirement. They closed huge parts of Manhattan to cars, and created a network of separated bike lanes downtown, with minimal new infrastructure requirements. This contrasts sharply with the amount of work that has gone into the Carrall Street Greenway, the most recent example of Vancouver's new infrastructure deployment. Vancouver would do well by studying how NYC got so much done in such little time.

To City Council's credit, the Burrard Bridge bike lane, however, is definitely a step in that direction.

>> photo by hradcanska