Monday, November 18, 2013

It's the little things that matter in Downtown Surrey

This Sunday, I had some time to spare between arriving in Surrey City Centre and an appointment; I decided to take a walk around Surrey’s transforming downtown core. Sometimes it's the small things that matter the most.

The first thing that I noticed was that Surrey is starting to install mid-block pedestrian crossings along King George Boulevard. While I’ve heard some safety/liability excuses about why other communities don’t install mid-block crossing, they are key to laying the groundwork for a walkable community. One of the challenges with Surrey and other post-1950’s communities is that they have long blocks. Because of these long blocks without mid-block crossings, walking from one side of the street to the other side takes too much time and becomes a hassle. Surrey has a longer-term goal of creating a tighter grid of streets in its core, but adding mid-block crossings is a good transitionary step. Another step Surrey needs to consider along King George Boulevard is to widen the sidewalks and plant more trees to provide a buffer and compensate for the high volume of traffic and road width of the boulevard.

Looking east; new mid-block crossing on King George Boulevard at 103th Avenue. Click image to enlarge. 

Looking west; new mid-block crossing on King George Boulevard at 103th Avenue. Click image to enlarge. 

Another key to creating a walkable community is to manage on street parking. By managing on street parking, minimum parking requirements that create massive on site parking lots that limit reuse and create pedestrians dead-zones can be reduced or removed. While on street parking is not a limited resource in Surrey's core today, by introducing paid parking now, the City is being proactive and avoiding possible future political battles when on street parking becomes a limited resources. While there is compiling evidence which shows that managing on street parking is good for business, many business owners have initial concerns and are usually very opposed to paid parking until they see how its benefits their business.

On street parking pay station in Downtown Surrey. Click image to enlarge.

Surrey's parking pay stations can allow demand-based pricing for on street parking in the future. This means that the City could price spaces to ensure that there are also some spaces available on the street, even when demand is high (another plus for business.)

Seeing the slow transformation of Whalley from a typical 1950’s auto-oriented community into a walkable core gives me hope for the rest of the South of Fraser. It is refreshing to see Surrey’s commitment to building a walkable community.

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