Vancouver to consider slowing Commercial Drive traffic in pedestrian-first redesign

May 12 2021, 5:04 pm

Two Vancouver city councillors have put forward a joint motion supporting the idea of slowing vehicle traffic on Commercial Drive to help establish a more pedestrian-friendly experience.

In their motion to be reviewed by city council next week, Green Party councillor Pete Fry and NPA councillor Melissa De Genova state they would like to see “a priority around sharing the street for all users” instead of promoting the corridor as an arterial “traffic connector/corridor.”

They envision enforcing Commercial Drive as a commercial high street with a “stop and shop model.”

This would be supported by street design interventions such as reducing the number of road lanes south of East 1st Avenue from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction, but curbside parking spaces would be maintained to support businesses.

The narrowed roadway would allow for expanded sidewalks on both sides of the street.

Other changes to the public realm could potentially include public art and placemaking features, bike racks, Mobi bike share stations, and enhanced east-west bike route connections.

The motion is based on recommendations recently made by the Commercial Drive Business Society (CDBS) on a “pedestrian-first vision,” which includes enhancing crosswalks at all cross-streets, new street furniture and landscaping, and improving east-west bike lanes.

In the past, the business improvement association has been known to be against repurposing road space on Commercial Drive for north-south bike lanes, and their vision stops short of adding this feature to the retail district segment of the street. Their vision, however, notes they are supportive of a potential new bike lane on Victoria Drive.

CDBS has also suggested turning the laneway west of the Expo Line platforms of SkyTrain’s Commercial-Broadway Station into a public plaza. Over the long term, TransLink is contemplating to turn this laneway footprint into an expansion of the station, with an additional outbound platform for the Expo Line and a third pedestrian bridge spanning East Broadway.

Over the medium term, the idea of slowing vehicle traffic with lane reductions could come into conflict with TransLink’s plans for the corridor. Later this decade, the public transit authority intends to launch a RapidBus route on the Commercial Drive-Victoria Drive corridor from downtown Vancouver via East Hastings Street to South Vancouver.

The City of Vancouver also intends to enact bus priority measures along Commercial Drive between Hastings Street and East 12th Avenue before the end of the decade.

The No. 20 trolley bus route running along Commercial Drive and Victoria Drive from downtown Vancouver is Metro Vancouver’s third busiest bus route, with 27,000 average weekday boardings in 2019.

Of the 10 bus corridors targeted for bus-priority measures by the municipal government, the No. 20 already has some of the poorest reliability metrics, with an on-time performance of 74% and a low average speed of just 14 km/hr.

If the motion is approved, city staff will report back on how the “stop and shop” vision for Commercial Drive can be incorporated as part of any future corridor upgrades.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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