During the council hearings on the Seaside Completion, traffic counts were repeatedly referenced – and disputed.

No wonder.  Maps that showed various counts on roads throughout the corridor were cluttered with numbers that seemed to contradict each other.  Here are two of the most contentious.

The first comes from a document for “Transportation 2040” – the city’s transportation strategy – dated June of 2012.

Point Grey - June 2012

One big difference: dates have been added on individual roads.  That’s not what a reader would have seen in the original.


The second map, with work from September and October of 2012, covers roughly the same area:

Point Grey - Sep 2012


Notice the difference on two of the most critical streets:

  • Point Grey Road (June): 13,000 vehicles per day
  • Point Grey Road (Sep): 10,000 vehicles per day – a drop of 30 percent
  • Macdonald (June): 12,000 vehicles per day
  • Macdonald (Sep): 10,000 vehicles per day – a drop of 20 percent


One can understand why people were confused, confounded and open to conspiratorial explanations.  Were staff fudging the figures?  The drops of 20 to 30 percent seemed too convenient for some who felt the difference was being used to justify removing through traffic from Point Grey Road by diverting it to Macdonald.

So the two maps became evidence for incredulity – and a condemnation of the whole process.  Why not stop, address the inconsistences and come up with credible figures everyone could agree on?

Eventually, on Saturday, July 27 at 2:59 pm,  Jerry Dobrovolny, the City’s transportation engineer, undertook an explanation – which you can see on the streaming video here.

Here’s the explanation.

In 2012, the City staff, in preparing for a meeting in Point Grey/Kits in 2012, took the data they had available – largely from counts done in 2006 – and created the first map above.

When it became apparent that the Broadway/Cornwall area would be a high priority, the engineers went out and took fresh counts, taken in September and October of 2012.  So although the maps are from 2012, the data is actually six years apart – and the drops in traffic reflect that difference in time.

And that data is amazing.

Jerry Drobrovolny verbatim:

We have seen a trend, a downward trend over the past 15 years – vehicles entering the city, vehicles entering the downtown, we have seen a downward trend on vehicles crossing the Burrard Bridge, we have seen a downward trend on vehicles entering and leaving UBC and the UEL.  And the difference between the data is a continuation of the downward trend. …

So we’re seeing those continual drops city-wide, and we’re seeing a similar drop here in these neighbourhoods between the data that we had (in) 2006 and the data we’re showing now.

[The data with dates is all available on VanMap.]

Even on Burrard Street, traffic volumes have been 15,000 cars-per-day higher in the last decade than they were in 2012.  When the Burrard/Cornwall intersection is redesigned and resignalized as part of this project, the traffic volume may well go up on Burrard in order to move it away from the Cornwall/Macdonald route – but it may still be an easier drive than it was in more congested times.

Very few delegations accepted the view that traffic has been declining in Vancouver.  It goes too much against common sense.  Most of us assume there can only be an increase in traffic as the city grows, and the city can only get more congested – and it’s already said to be the second most congested in North America!

It was therefore a given that transferring traffic from Point Grey Road to Macdonald and 4th Avenue could only worsen an intolerable situation.

And yet, if the trend continues, it won’t.  Subtract the amount of traffic that will avoid Cornwall and Macdonald, as well as those using alternative routes to get to western destinations, and the new traffic on Macdonald could well be offset by the general decline.  Most likely, once Burrard/Cornwall is rebuilt, the diversion may not even be noticeable.

Oh, there’s this: more people will be cycling.  The percentage difference it makes may be small – but it’s all part of the trend.  It’s the benefit we get from shaping a city that, from the 1970s on, said it would not widen streets or accommodate more single-occupancy vehicles.  It’s the reality that comes when practical alternatives are offered, especially transit.  It’s the kind of city you get when land-use matches up with transportation priorities.  And it’s the kind of city that’s healthier and, despite the rancor on issues like this, maybe even happier.

It’s the city we said we wanted – and the city we are getting.

Why would we stop now?