There’s new management in town for that place that attracts lots of passionate reaction, Granville Island. Owned and governed by the Federal government the island was originally in industrial use, with Ocean Concrete still continuing operations at their plant on the east side of the island.

Since the 1970’s the federally controlled island has morphed into a mix of market based businesses, artists and restaurants that employ over 3,000 people. This area was governed by the Granville Island Trust which will be dissolved in favour of the Granville Island Council. You can read Glen Korstrom’s article about the Council in this Business in Vancouver link.

The island has several challenges, the biggest being that vehicle movement and parking are the largest land use, taking over a quarter of the land area.

Since the island is under federal jurisdiction there’s not been a way to easily  resolve the free range car situation, where vehicles hunt for parking spaces in the same area that pedestrians try to walk and shop. It’s something we’ve been talking about at Price Tags for many years.

As reported in the Granville Island 2040 Plan public opinion was equally divided between decreasing automobile access or increasing parking access. But in any place that is serious about climate change and moving towards a more 21st century way of addressing sustainability, other modes of transport other than free range cars needs to be taken seriously.

Besides bus service that must deal with the cars clogging every street on the island, there was the Downtown Historic Railway incepted in 1998 that ran from Science World and Canada Line’s Olympic Station to Granville Island. It was run mainly on the weekends and by volunteers using old streetcars. During the Olympics in 2010  there were modifications made for a modern street car demonstration service. The City of Vancouver Vision dominated Council kiboshed the Downtown Historic Railway afterwards, citing financial costs. Making sure that the line would never be revived sections of the track have been removed east of the Canada Line’s Olympic Village Station.

While the Granville Island 2040 plan has innovative ideas such as elevator access for pedestrians and cyclists from Granville Bridge and strengthening ferry and greenway connections, the idea of some kind of centralized streetcar or bus service with a place off island to plunk automobiles needs to be talked about.

With demographic change, a shift to a more creative economy, and with the importance of addressing climate change it just makes sense to seriously focus efforts on reclaiming the island from the cars.  Ocean Cement will  continue their concrete operation until their contract expires and will need trucking access. But the opportunities to reboot  Granville Island’s road and parking space to more creative uses would be inline with a true 21st century rethink.








  1. I sat on the Granville Island Trust for 5 years, up until about 2014. It does not govern the Island. Since the late 1980s it’s role was strictly an advisory role to CMHC and to the federal Minister responsible for CMHC. It had NO decision making power whatsoever since the late 1980s. When the Island was established in the late 1970s, as the gathering place it became, the Trust had full decision-making powers. I worked hard to try to achieve that again when I was on the Trust by actively advocating a model similar to YVR. I proposed the federal asset be leased to a non-shareholder non-profit Corporation whose directors would be local people, representing all of the unique interests on the Island and the community at-large, and control of the Island would be devolved to that organization by way of the lease. I was unsuccessful in attempting to convince the Harper government to do that and, instead, the Tories attempted to turn control of the Island over to Port Metro Vancouver. I vigorously opposed that and like to believe that I helped prevent that as the clock tucked away to the 2015 federal election. Had the Harper government been successful in pawning Granville Island to the Port, it would have been disastrous for the Island. The model being implemented today is, on my opinion, somewhat better than the advisory role of the Trust but it is also deficient in many ways. Granville Island needs a political champion — an equivalent of the visionary founder of the Island, the late Ron Basford. Until it has a political champion in the federal government, much of the renewal that is desperately needed to preserve the “secret sauce” that made Granville Island one of the best people places in North America, will continue to be diluted and become flavourless and stale.

  2. Loads of tourists and locals from Vancouver and afar come by car. If cars are disallowed, how will people, especially families, or small groups, get there in current numbers ?

    1. Joe could bike. Or walk. Or take an Aquabus, especially from the stops next to Roundhouse station or Main St station.

        1. For some. Others would focus on the other option given; Skytrain to Main St station, transfer to the Aquabus or False Creek Ferry,, and get off on Granville Island. One transfer from Surrey to the Island.

        2. If Surrey is this great city that is going to overthrow Vancouver they should really have their own features and amenities rather than rely on a distant place that they love to disparage.

          It is seen as a given that people from far away should just use other people’s roads to add noise, stench and carnage to other people’s neighbourhoods for their own personal pleasure. I don’t think that should be a given. It is a failure in good city building.

          And before you go off about not being welcoming to others in our region or from elsewhere, I do welcome the people. I don’t welcome their cars. There are options. Many of us in the city have learned to reduce or eliminate car use but it is imposed on us anyway by those who refuse to. You’ll stand up for the “right” of people to drive whenever and wherever they please. But do you stand up for the right of people to be free from the degradation to their lives and urban environment caused by those who offer nothing in return?

          1. All Canadians own Granville Island, it’s not just for the special enjoyment of those in the downtown bubble. I agree that more needs to done to move parking off-island and improve transit. However we have nobody but the virtue signalling Vision Vancouver for lack of a streetcar or parking options.

          2. Going shopping with 3+ people together via SkyTrain, then bus and/or ferry isn’t so common in Lower Mainland. That’s why Tsawwassen Mall is packed on weekend – as everyone arrives by car.

            With better access, for example the planned elevator or a low level bikable/walkable bridge hanging below Burrard or Granville this would be used arriving by train to Olympic Village station or Yaletown-Roundhouse. Where’s this debate ie re-designing the very high bridges from an industrial era when FalseCreek was frequented by tugboats and other higher boats ? Sailboats pale in comparison to bikers or walkers today by a factor of 1:100 probably.

        3. “Virtue signaling” is a tiresome phrase co-opted by the fossil fuel industries to disparage anybody who tries to help reduce our dependence. It has become part of the propaganda machine. When people use the term it makes me want to stop reading.

          As for the streetcar we can thank every city government that did not take action since it was first proposed. I’m doubtful anything will change any time soon now that Vision is no longer. While the streetcar would be great, Vision ramped up cycling in a way that nobody else did and that is probably even more important.

          The streetcar concept could have had a major boost by going with the hybrid Broadway Subway to Arbuts/LRT from Main Street-Science World to UBC. A much better city-building configuration.

          1. EVs are cars too. They too clog the road (or Granville Island). It’s about individual transportation choices NOT the type of engine.

            Street cars far too slow and unsuited in a dense urban context like Vancouver. Perhaps an LRT on surface (like at YVR) west of Alma or Blanca to UBC.

            The critical piece missing to reduce car use is easy access from False Creek north, ie far FAR lower bridges for bikes and peds.

  3. Many years ago I worked in a restaurant in Horseshoe Bay – similar parking issues exacerbated by ferry deadlines. The restaurant parking lot was always full – the owner’s Mercedes money pit; his family’s other two vehicles – and with employees’ cars.

  4. Coleen Hardwick posted this article on her Facebook group stating, “it is all about the significance of the tram”

  5. A small point maybe but why are there no Mobi stations? There was briefly a trial station and then nothing. I can only imagine the CMHC or something has blocked this? Seems like a no brainer to get people to and from the island and allows multi modal options like bike one way and ferry back.

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