Monday, December 29, 2008

What about the poor pedestrian - or – my three hour trip to Pitt Meadows

What a Christmas season it has been for public transit and the pedestrian in Metro Vancouver. I had the pleasure of taking Translink every day since the 22nd, and let me tell you, it has been an adventure. First let’s start with walking.

I commented on an earlier post about the lack of snow clearing on sidewalks in the region. Talking to people around Downtown Langley, many elderly commented that they felt trapped and like second rate citizens. One senior at a bus stop commented that “back in the day” the bus stops used to be cleared with a path to the road. She said that things are worse today. Another senior in my building said that things in Langley aren’t very “senior friendly” when talking about the snow. The Langleys, Surrey, New Westminster, Coquitlam, Vancouver, Burnaby, and Pitt Meadows (these are the places I walked this past week) are not pedestrian friendly in the snow period. While the major roads were cleared, the sidewalks were impassable. I saw a person in a wheelchair on the side of the road almost get run over because the sidewalk wasn’t cleared on Columbia Street in New Westminster. The snow really highlights the lack of priority placed on the pedestrian. Municipalities and the provincial government talk about the need to focus on walking and biking, but at the end of the day it really feels like an afterthought. Otherwise why would utility poles, lamp standards, snow, and sand piles be in the middle of sidewalks? Wouldn't their be more bike lanes?

What can be done about this? On the snow removal front, it always snows during the winter in Metro Vancouver. Municipalities should require (pass bylaws) that sidewalks are to be cleared by landowners, stratas, and businesses. This is done all over Canada. Cities in the Okanagan Valley, Calgary, and Edmonton all require this. In Vernon, they used to run ads in the papers, radio, and TV to remind people to clear their sidewalks. When I was talking to a business in Downtown Langley, she didn’t realize that in other parts of Canada local municipalities clear their downtown and high pedestrian areas. She seemed shocked that other snowy parts of Canada have cleared sidewalks. An impassable sidewalk can’t be good for business. On the general pedestrian accessibility front, move utility poles and lamps to the sides of the sidewalk as roads are being built or rebuilt. Also, require that sidewalks be passable and free of debris all year. Paint bike lanes on the road, many roads are wide enough for this. Surrey has been retrofitting some roads with bike lanes for a while, and the Township of Langley’s newer neighbourhoods are bike lane ready.

There has been much talk about SkyTrain and Translink in the media this past week. Trains driving with open doors, failure of track switching and the automation system; the list goes on. It really builds the case for an at-grade, non-automated system. Anyway, the people at Coast Mountain Bus and SkyTrain really did an amazing job keeping the system going. I over heard many SkyTrain Attendants talking about working 6 hours with no breaks driving trains. Also, bus drivers were packing on people to make sure that everyone could get a ride, sometimes bending the rules. These people deserve a big thanks, but there seems to be some issues with the way that Translink deals with major events. As an example, when the SkyTrain broke between Sapperton and Columbia on Saturday, Translink told everyone to take the 112 bus instead. This bus only ran every 30min. When I lived in Calgary, they had emergency shuttle bus stops that were marked year round for when the light rail system had issues. When there was an issue, there was frequent shuttle bus service. This should be happening in Metro Vancouver today.

Anyway to wrap this up, I found it funny that today of all the days the 502 didn’t show up at my bus stop. This made me 30min late for work. During all the snow and horrible weather, the 502 remained on time. Today on the clear, rainy roads, it was a no show, go figure...

1 comment:

Briana Tomkinson said...

In New Westminster, there is a bylaw that requires all property owners and tenants to clear sidewalks of snow. Unfortunately, many people still do not.