Monday, July 29, 2013

Old BC Transit Guide on Transit and Land-Use

This weekend, I stumbled upon an old document from BC Transit —created back when it used to run the transit system in Metro Vancouver— called Transit & Land Use Planning. The document appears to have come out of the mid-1990s, and explains how even small changes to one project can have a large impact on the provisioning of transit service.

The main argument in the document is that land-use and transportation need to be more tightly integrated together. While some parts of the region and some levels of government are doing a better job of integrating land-use and transportation than others, it is interesting that +15 years since this document came out, we are still having the same discussion in Metro Vancouver. Take the following graphic for example:

Example of auto-oriented, transit-accommodating, and accessible building siting. Click image to enlarge.

It shows how the same project could be auto-oriented, or transit and pedestrian-oriented with just a simple change in siting. The guide doesn't mention that transit and pedestrian-oriented projects require less parking too, but research wasn't solidify on that point when this document was created. What is really frustrating for me is that the region has been talking about how to make development projects more accessible with simple siting changes for years, yet we still have auto-oriented developments in corridors that would be well suited for transit.

In Langley, I’ve been posting for years about how some auto-oriented projects could be made more accessible, but it still seems that even some +15 years later some planners and councillors have not received the memo on transit-oriented design.

The BC Transit document also talks about benefits of shifting back to a grid network of wide arterial streets and narrow local streets for drivers, transit-users, and pedestrians. It is good to see that the curvilinear road network that is common in areas like Walnut Grove is being replaced with tighter grid networks in newer areas like Willoughby. This is a change for the better.

The document also talks about implementing transit-priority measures on arterials to improve transit service. This includes queue bypasses and bus lanes. When this report first came out, transit priority measures were not common. Today there are bus only lanes on Highway 99 and in Vancouver, and queue bypass lanes throughout the region including in Surrey and Langley. Still, much could be done to improve reliability on corridors like Fraser Highway where a bus trip from Langley City to the SkyTrain can take between 30 minutes and an hour depending on the time of day.

One of the other interesting sections in the report is on how to stage new development projects for transit. While the section is an interesting read, I think the larger issue revolves around funding for transit today.

All in all, it is amazing how relevant this BC Transit guide is, even today, and how much positive change there has been in the region, though it is a bit disappointing to see that some municipalities are still struggling so much when it comes to making auto-oriented commercial projects more accessible.

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