Granville Island wants new bridge elevator and streetcar included in TransLink plan

Dec 5 2019, 7:21 pm

The operator of Granville Island has formally asked TransLink to consider the inclusion of specific transportation infrastructure ideas in the region’s new 30-year transportation strategy that directly benefit the tourist and cultural destination.

In their Transport 2050 submission to the public transit authority, federal crown corporation Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) highlighted key components of its recently-enacted Granville Island 2040 master plan of improving accessibility and connectivity to increase visitation and reduce car use.

One of the significant components is the proposed elevator and staircase tower connection between Granville Island and the Granville Street Bridge deck, which would directly lead to the City of Vancouver’s new pedestrian and cycling walking path for the bridge. This tower connection was envisioned to also include an observation deck, hovering high above the bridge deck.

Artistic rendering of the elevator and staircase tower between Granville Island and the Granville Street Bridge deck. (CMHC)

When the master plan was finalized in 2017, CMHC assumed the city’s pathway would be located within the centre lanes of the bridge deck. The tower would puncture through the centre of the deck to provide direct access to the pathway and the ability to have a bus stop on the bridge.

According to CMHC’s submission to TransLink, with as many as 80 buses per hour during peak periods on six bus routes crossing the bridge, this new vertical circulation would dramatically increase Granville Island’s public transit connectivity.

Currently, only the No. 50 bus directly serves Granville Island. Other bus routes that run along West 4th Avenue and Granville Street are within a 15-minute walking distance from the destination, but this is considered an inconvenient distance for many visitors.

CMHC says modelling work performed by a consultant in 2017 found that an elevator connected to a bus stop on the bridge would put an estimated 200,000 additional people within a 30-minute transit trip to Granville Island, and about 500,000 additional people within a 60-minute trip.

Granville Bridge path

Possible location options for the elevator and staircase tower between Granville Island and the Granville Bridge deck. (City of Vancouver)

Further technical analysis of this elevator concept was jointly conducted by the municipal government and CMHC between 2018 and 2019. CMHC’s submission states another consultant determined that an elevator tower is technically possible, but noted that “more work is needed to understand the geological conditions” of Granville Island.

In September of this year, the city released six varying options for the design of the pathway on the bridge deck. Options placing the pathway on the side of the bridge deck would likely necessitate a tower that is completely independent of the bridge structure, instead of a centre-deck protrusion.

In an email to Daily Hive, the municipal government said all of the shortlisted design options being considered for the pathway project “preserve the ability to build an elevator and staircase to Granville Island from the bridge at some point in the future.” However, this would have to be a separate project led by CMHC as it is under federal jurisdiction.

Granville Bridge Connector

Granville Bridge Connector: Option 1 – West Side. (City of Vancouver)

The other component for TransLink’s consideration is CMHC’s support for the City of Vancouver’s vision of establishing a new streetcar network, which would directly serve Granville Island.

There is some precedent for such a service. The South False Creek railway right-of-way was activated during the 2010 Winter Olympics with a free demonstration streetcar between Granville Island and the Canada Line’s Olympic Village Station.

Over the long term, the municipal government plans to create a streetcar network that runs north-south along the Arbutus Greenway from the Fraser River to False Creek, along the South False Creek right-of-way to the Expo Line’s Main Street-Science World Station, potentially along North False Creek to Drake Street, and through Chinatown, Gastown, and Coal Harbour, ending at Stanley Park.

Downtown Vancouver streetcar

Vision for the Downtown Vancouver streetcar network, created in the late-1990s. (City of Vancouver)

“While buses currently serve much of this route, the streetcar could potentially complement existing service by providing a new transit option and experience that would offer riders with beautiful views of False Creek while connecting them to major destination points like Granville Island,” reads the submission.

The municipal government is already proactively studying options for a streetcar network, which includes planning work to identify needed right-of-ways and space requirements in streets to “future proof for a streetcar.”

“The Downtown Streetcar study is particularly relevant to be integrated with land use planning happening in the city, such as the Northeast False Creek Area Plan, Broadway area planning, Gastown Complete Streets transportation study and connectivity to the Arbutus Greenway,” the city told Daily Hive earlier this year.

“The study outcomes will be able to feed into the next wave of future transit planning for the city including the City Plan.”

Advocacy for a streetcar in South False Creek can also be expected from the Squamish First Nation and Concord Pacific if their major development projects — Senakw on reserve lands and the redevelopment of the old Molson brewery, respectively — at the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge are approved.

Olympic Streetcar Line Vancouver

Olympic Streetcar Line station at False Creek South. (Kenneth Chan / Daily Hive)

Additionally, CMHC has suggested steps to integrate the Aquabus and False Creek Ferries services into TransLink’s public transit network, particularly with allowing the use of the Compass Card on the privately-operated ferries to enable seamless transfers and increase ridership. These miniature passenger ferries in False Creek have seen significant ridership growth over the years.

Despite its close proximity to the city centre, CMHC says Granville Island’s public transit mode share is relatively low at just 10% in 2016, compared to Vancouver’s overall public transit mode share of 16%.

TransLink’s Transport 2050 process engaged both the general public and a wide range of stakeholders — major employers, business associations, tourism associations, neighbourhood associations, health authorities, post-secondary institutions, and developers — across the region for their feedback. The strategy is set to be finalized by the end of 2020, after further consultation.