Speaking of Granville (below), congrats to the City and the Downtown Vancouver BIA on their programming of the mid-town blocks. Love the green carpets. 

Given the apparent success of a fully pedestrianized street prior to the return of the trolleys in September, it’s time once again to consider the fate of Granville.  Could it be a ped-only street at appropriate times?  Say, summer afternoons.  On weekends and holidays.  And late at night, when the police close it off to give the drunken louts a little room to breathe.  

The problem is, where would the surface  transit go?  For most of the time (rainy days in November), transit should be on Granville, allowing for short and seamless transfers among different routes and with SkyTrain and Canada Line.  A possible solution: variable routing, so transit can continue to use Seymour and Howe, now that the wired infrastructure exists, during times when Granville is closed. 

But how would transit users know?  The clear need is for information of a very high quality.   Every bus stop would have to have electronic signs, indicating on which street the trolley or bus is going to arrive – high-quality signage with maps that show where the stop actually is in relation to where the viewer is at that moment. 

More than that, there need to be big screens on Granville, showing the condition of the transit system, with clear directional information – sign boards that could be used, as in places like Paris, for city announcements of general interest and even public art.

Everything, of course, should be on GPS, with real-time info, just as you’d expect in the Canada Line.  Users would know, with greater accuracy, where and when the next bus will arrive. 

That seems to me to be the trade-off.  Transit users will have less locational certainty, but in return they get more accurate and frequent information.  And everyone benefits from a revitalized Granville.


  1. There’s a simpler answer Gord. Keep the buses on Howe and Seymour. It’s one block either direction to the SkyTrain. Really not a big deal. Riders have been doing it for years. Variable routing would be a big headache, whether there was huge directional signage or not.

  2. Agree with Paul, leave the buses where they are, I’d even go further and open up Granville to private cars M-F from 6am-5pm, and then have bollards lift up and have it ped friendly in the evenings and weekends.

  3. Minor quibble.. “so transit can continue to use Seymour and Howe, now that the wired infrastructure exists” The wires have existed on Howe and Seymor as long as I can remember, 30+ years. The trolleys were diverted to the Howe/Seymor couplet in 1988/89, the last time Granville Mall closed for reconstruction (the year the 900 block was converted from mall to street)


  4. No, Gordon is absolutely right here. I find the “just send the buses somewhere else” argument to be more than a little bit irksome. Yes, detouring everything to Seymour/Howe/Richards has worked well enough for the past couple of years–it’s still not as good as concentrating bus service on Granville. The city’s reports on the Granville mall question claim that 60,000 people a day used the bus service on Granville–according to Translink’s area transit plan, it’s the busiest bus corridor in Greater Vancouver. So it’s rather flippant to dismiss that busy a public transportation corridor so easily.

    I don’t quite follow the argument that transit service is somehow anathema to a pedestrian-friendly street. For festivals and special events–sure, detour the buses. But the rest of the time I don’t see any reason why we can’t have a great street for both pedestrians and transit users.

    Plus, without putting too fine a point on it, the time to campaign against buses on Granville was five years ago when Vancouver city council decided what to do with the street post-Canada Line. I don’t think people fully appreciate that keeping Granville north of Smithe bus-only was itself a brave, progressive move–see page 18 of this report to see the pressure that was on council to open the whole street up to traffic. The choice was between transit/pedestrians and cars and, thankfully, the city chose not to open the street to vehicles.

    Buses are coming back to Granville; we should make the best of it, and real-time information would be a welcome addition. If we’re really interested in making Granville better, I’d say a more useful campaign would be to start extending the bus mall south. And, at very least, can we get rid of that awful sidewalk parking?

  5. Why should transit always have to suffer? Give more space to pedestrians. Give more space to transit. Take space away from the cars. Make either Seymour or Howe two way again. Give one of those streets to bi-directional transit only. Give the other to the cars. Leave Granville for the pedestrians. We always have the mentality that we absolutely cannot take away any road capacity away from cars. Surface transit always comes out the loser. This needs to change. Do we need another Gulf oil spill in our own back yard until we get this?

  6. Peter – regarding your thought that transit service is somehow anathema to a pedestrian-friendly street – that’s not the issue, the fact is that transit running down the street is anathema to a pedestrian-only street, which is what we lack in Vancouver.

    I don’t want just a pedestrian-friendly street (ALL streets should be pedestrian friendly). I want a pedestrian only street. One where buskers can set up in the middle of the road and draw a crowd (can’t do that with buses coming down the street), where vending carts can take up sidewalk space because the pedestrians have the road space, where an entire marimba band can set up to play, etc.

    I live by transit and I would happily leave the buses where they are on Howe and Seymour – I’m not seeing how it’s a huge hardship for anyone to have it set up the way it is (and I live downtown, so I use those buses).

    yes the decision to keep Granville a transit mall was made years ago – at a time when no one would have believed that Granville would become what it has: a central gathering space, a people space. In fact, Granville is the ONLY urban pedestrian space in the entire city. I would suggest that 5 years ago we were not ready to pedestrianize granville, while now we clearly are. Should we stick to a decision we made back then regardless of what has changed?

  7. Agree with Paul, but also partially with John. Having Howe and Seymour home to all the buses makes service easier ane less complicated and provides you with a ton of options. If only the 10 runs on Granville, then there’s no way to catch a 4, 7, 16, 17, or 50 that might also do the trick if it gets there first. It’d be nice to have Granville as a pedestrian space (buses harm this, even the electric ones) and the transit service would be more legible and offer more options. That said, it’s high time to put some real bus priority measures in on Howe/Seymour (dedicated lanes, signal pre-emption, etc…) to give buses a boost over the cars that clog those streets up.

    The call for better and more useful dynamic signage is spot-on, especially in situations where there are many options (see above). Those digital signs on Main Street are a total waste in this regard (yes, the 3 is coming every 15min) and would be much more useful on Howe or on Broadway.

  8. I don’t want to have buses run on one street half the time and another street the rest of the time. It’s too confusing, especially for new riders, and especially for out of town guests. I would love for transit to stay where it is right now, it’s worked great and Granville works great as a pedestrian only street, but if transit is going to use Granville, then it needs to use Granville all the time.

    I really would love to see the signage Gord is talking about here, and it shouldn’t be contingent on confusing bus routes.

  9. Des–the point is that all the buses on Seymour and Howe would run on Granville i.e. the 4/7/10/16/17/etc. would all be in the same place no matter what.

    LB–“Should we stick by a decision no matter what’s changed?” Well, no, but after sinking a whole bunch of money into designing the street as a bus mall and installing all sorts of transit infrastructure–I’d say it’s too late in this case.

    Don’t get me wrong–I actually agree with what you have to say about what a pedestrian-only street could be. But I’m skeptical that Granville is going to be that place. I also live downtown and walk down Granville just about every day–and I’m often the only one not on the sidewalk. There are buskers and food carts, but usually off to the side. I haven’t seen any marimbas, but the mariachi group that was around during the World Cup stuck to the sidewalk. Yesterday during the lunch hour the tables in the middle of the street were completely deserted–and this was on a hot, sunny day.

    The World Cup and the Olympics and so on were great–and I do think Granville should be pedestrianized fairly often for special events. But is Granville a natural gathering space otherwise? People will come in droves to watch the World Cup on an outdoor screen, but what’s going to draw them in the middle of November? Pacific Centre?

    The problem is that the cost is the ONLY transit-only space in the city. If John can convince the powers that be to turn Seymour into an exclusive busway it would be different, but that’s not the reality we face.

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