Jonathan Cote, a New Westminster City Councillor and SFU Urban Studies student, is combining work and study – and he needs some advice:

The City of New Westminster recently developed a Frequent Transit Network Walkshed map through its Master Transportation planning process.  The map highlights all properties in the city that are within a five-minute walking distance from a frequent transit bus stop and a 10 minute walking distance from a Skytrain station.

I wrote a small post about this on the Urban Studies blog here.

From a planning perspective the map is interesting because it can easily illustrate which areas of the city have easy access to transit and which places may be more car dependent. This type of map also provides a very clear visual on where cities should consider growth and equally important where cities should limit growth.

So Jonathan asks:

I was wondering if you have any application ideas on how this kind of map could be used?  I think this map could be a very interesting planning tool and it would be great to get any feedback.

And I’m passing the question along to readers.  Any ideas?

Comments

  1. The Frequent Transit Network map in New Westminster is useful mainly to show that the bus route network is poorly designed – or at least poorly designed if frequent transit is a goal. The bus route network in New Westminster is designed under the assumption that people in New Westminster are capable of walking only half as far as people in Vancouver. The bus routes are twice as close together.

    I can guess at two reasons for this: hills and old people, but actually I’m not sure that most of New Westminster is much different from most of Vancouver in topography or demographics. The routes mostly run up and down hills anyway with people generally walking along contours to get to them. Even the density is not that different.

    The north-south bus route spacings in Vancouver at Broadway are as follows:
    Arbutus – 1000 m – Granville – 870 m – Oak – 850 m – Cambie – 1020 m – Main – 850 m – Fraser

    The northwest-southeast bus route spacings in New Westmimster are as follows:
    12th Street – 620 m – 8th Street – 340 m – 6th Street – 590 m – 2nd Street – 530 m McBride

    The southwest – northeast bus route spacings at 6th Street in New Westminster are as follows:
    6th Ave – 430 m – 8th Ave – 530 m – 11 Ave and it gets complicated

    Given a fixed amount of resources, if the bus routes are half as close together they will come half as often. If New Westminster had bus routes that were spaced apart at distances that are typical in Vancouver, the typical frequency would be every 15 minutes instead of every 30 minutes.

    In practice, that means that New Westminster should have frequent transit on:
    12th Street – 960 m – 6th Street – 1020 m – McBride
    and
    6th Ave – 830 m – 10th Ave – 700 m – 16 Ave
    instead of infrequent transit spread over too many streets.

    1. New Westminster is much smaller than Vancouver (space-wise) and thus there’s no reason why the stops can’t be closer together to provide better local service. The overall trip length from downtown to uptown is only 5-10 minutes.

      Greater stop spacing would speed up the service, but wouldn’t create significant gains due to the short distance.

      yes the routes do go on to Burnaby, but that is outside the context of the discussion.

      1. That’s a very different issue from what the poster is talking about, but keep in mind the buses don’t just stop at the border of New Westminster; North-South ones in particular go through Burnaby in most cases. Some of these bus routes are quite long, and could benefit just as much from slightly longer stop spacing as any route in Vancouver would, keeping in mind those areas with steep topography should have closer stop spacing than areas that are flat. This also has a benefit from the operations point of view, as buses are more likely to be on time, and fewer buses are needed to provide the same frequency of service.

  2. Eliminate minimum parking requirements, and implement parking maximums in this zone. The trick is to capture the increase in land value for the public good that typically occurs when automobile age parking requirements are removed. (Note that this increase in land value may not occur in very high income areas, the very wealthy are the only ones willing to pay the free market cost of parking).

  3. The question here may also be does development come before transit, or does transit follow development. Since Skytrain is rigid, it is correct to assume that development should radiate from skytrain stations. But where else?

    The 106, 112 and 123, 2 of which are on the FTN, though provide decent NW=>SE (uptown) service, can change on an instant. From my perspective, there may be overlap of services on both 6th and 8th, with a lack of service N/E=>SW (crosstown); the 154/155 is inadequate.

    But getting back on topic, what I am saying is that these FTN maps shouldn’t be used as rigid guidelines to where to put development. But looking at the map does yield a few answers:

    1) Transit Service must “Be on the Way” as Jarrett Walker Describes it: http://www.humantransit.org/2009/04/be-on-the-way.html , unlike the detours the 101 takes to serve the hospitals churches and schools,

    and 2) Transit Service thrives on “anchors” or in other words, strong magnets or centers where many destinations and origins can be found. The towers at Royal City Centre makes a good anchor, and so does all the development around the skytrain stations.

    If these 2 criteria are met, then good transit service will follow. In my opinion, the Crosstown corridor of 6th avenue jumps out; higher development across 6 Ave will be followed by higher 154/155 frequencies. When both 6 Ave and 6&8 St have high transit service, they will essentially create a “Cross” or “X” connecting the Skytrain Stations.

    Also, it is clear that the blue highlights on the bottom left (queensburough) will get guaranteed FTN service, so it may be safe to say that TOD could radiate around there (around ewen ave).

    1. I think 6th Ave from 22nd St to 6th&6th should be classified as FTN as it is served by both 154/155 out of phase.The combination provides 15 min service or better most of the day.

      It was fully FTN until a year or so ago when TransLink cut back each bus to hourly after 9pm.

  4. New Westminster has strong retail corridors in 6th Street and 12th Street. The transit on these streets is permanent because these streets are strong anchors in themselves. In fact, the role of these streets – including the Vancouver-like spacing between them as transit corridors – dates back to the streetcar era. All the land between these streets was marketable for transit-dependent – not just -oriented – development back in the day or they would have built the streetcar routes closer together.

    In contrast, 8th Street is a relatively weak transit corridor – like Manitoba or Ontario would be if it had a bus route – that just happens to be part of the Frequent Transit Network. If New Westminster’s transit network was designed around a reasonable definition of walking distance, 8th Street would not be a transit corridor.

    It would be perfectly reasonable to ask these questions in Vancouver because the strong corridors define the strong transit routes and vice-versa. The routes are fixed on the corridors.

    New Westminster is actually designed quite well for transit, but the bus network shows little relation to the structure of the city. Once the bus network has been changed to fit the city, the answers about how development should relate to transit should be obvious.

  5. Does the map take care of the topography?
    Elevation change challenge a bit the walkability in NewWest (typically a 10% slope can double the walking time on a specific distance- in other word 400m with 40meter elevation change is equivalent to walk 800meter flat or so).

    As mentioned by other people, form the map, it look it misses a crosstown corridor from22nd station to Braird station (along 6th avenue or 8th avenue?)

    but, what the map doesn’t say, is that in fact the area around 22nd station is not very “walkable”, because there is not too much in term of retail there…it is the same around Braird, but one can eventually better envision strong redevelopment opportunities there.

  6. Kyle identifies the question which has bedevilled transit regionwide – not just in New West

    ” does development come before transit, or does transit follow development”

    We have always maintained that ridership has to come before transit improvement – which is very obviously nonsense, but is inevitable if what you really mean is “I don’t want to pay for your transit” (Thank you, Peter Ladner)

    When people came to Coquitlam they were told that there were plans for SkyTrain in the future. In fact there still are – but there are no trains now, and prospects are iffy. So they bought the houses with the triple car garages and drive everywhere. And now we are widening the freeway we cannot seriously expect to see transit oriented development south of the Fraser.

    Until we get out of this self defeating loop we will repeat the same mistake endlessly. We need a way to fund transit – and to build it before the people arrive. We need to be able to afford to run the trains/trams/buses empty for a while. When people have a real choice – when transit is actually attractive and usable – then they will get on. They will not change based on pie crust promises. It doesn’t matter what the plan says, if you have no ability (or intention) to deliver on it.

    1. @ Stephen:
      I definitely agree that transit should affect development. The barrier is those few years when services must run empty. Regretfully, this becomes a political issue, and the fact that buses are overcrowding becomes a priority over long-term goals such as shaping development.

      But these years are especially painful when centers like Lake City Way and Sperling are sitting vacant, with the companies sitting on the land anticipating increase in property prices.
      – – –
      I think I wasn’t clear with my earlier comment: What I wanted to convey is that development shouldn’t be scattered around the city, by development, I mean major origins or destinations for people (ie. churches, hospitals, highrises). These developments must “be on the way”, rather than scattered across the city, and/or densified into a small city block (as anchors).

      I was saying that 6 Ave and 6th Street should become the major corridors for development. Agree w/ Mike that we should abandon 8St to focus more on other services. Also, the anchor (where the highrises are currently) should be at the cross of the 6’s.

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