PART 4 of the extended essay by a guest writer, Peter Marriott, on the question of transit on Robson Street.
Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.
The City mentions that Translink will be conducting a “service review” of the Downtown core, once again suggesting that “careful planning” will give us a better bus route if Robson Square is closed. But, in fact, a service review that focuses on building transit’s ridership is likely to find that Robson Square is an even more important transit route than it is today. Rather than “helping guide improved bus routes,” closing the street to transit actually means closing the door to possible improvements.
An immediate improvement to the #5 line, for instance, would extend it to Waterfront Station and route via Granville both ways instead of making a one‑way loop on Richards.
This requires no new trolley wire or other infrastructure, but it would require a commitment from the City to provide more consistent transit service on Granville (the reason the #5 has been routed via Richards is that when Granville is closed, all other southbound services are rerouted to Howe, but the turn from Howe to Robson is impossible. Because Granville is closed so often, Translink decided in 2011 to route the #5 via Richards at all times).
But the real gap (and opportunity) in Downtown Vancouver is that Yaletown and Downtown South are severely underserved. Keeping Robson Square open to transit allows for transit service on Robson and Davie to be extended east to provide continuous service along the entire length of their respective streets, creating a downtown transit network that provides direct and convenient connections between downtown communities and the broader transit network.
A transit network like this could support a better pedestrian environment and better public spaces, too. A decision to prioritize transit along with walking and cycling could lead to the development of a transit‑accessible greenway all along Robson, as the City once considered. Better transit service to the east side of downtown could go a long way toward redeveloping Larwill Park as a public square.
These are my concepts only, but the broader point is this: a review of transit service in Downtown Vancouver that actually attempted to increase ridership, legibility and accessibility would likely find that Robson Street needs a two‑way, frequent, continuous transit service. In fact, I don’t see a plausible way for any other line to effectively serve the east end of Robson, which currently has only one‑way loop service from the #17 line. Closing off the possibility of transit service through Robson Square permanently limits future options to build Downtown transit ridership.
TOMORROW: Conceptualizing and Understanding Transit
* Bold emphases mine.