Translink ‘good’ urbanism

We have grown accustomed to seeing Skytrain blight the places it crosses. It is time to turn it around. Transit implementation should trigger street beautification, neighbourhood revitalization and—yes—affordable houses.

Translink CEO Kevin Desmond [photo Paul McGrath, North Shore News]

Reported this week, Translink is pitching a B-Line for the North Shore linking Park Royal shopping centre near the Lions Gate Bridge with the Phibbs bus exchange near the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge (at Second Narrows). Our analysis points to this service is a key component of a Total Transit Network (TTN) for the Lower Mainland, and a critical element in a Regional Strategy to end the Housing Crisis.

north-shore-b-line

 NORTH SHORE B-LINE (RED) WITH BRIDGE TO BELCARRA (DOTTED)

Translink’s efforts are in line with our recommendations for creating the Lower Mainland TTN. We underscore here our finding calling for a bridge across the so-called Indian Arm to Belcarra as a key element in a Regional Strategy to end the Housing Crisis now engulfing the Lower Mainland.

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_streetsection

TRANSLINK PROPOSAL: MARINE DRIVE STREET SECTION

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ARTERIAL STREETS DESIGNED TO FUNCTION AS ‘OPEN  TRAFFIC SEWERS’

When the rubber meets the road, we are accustomed to seeing woeful inadequacies in the Translink Urbanism.

The Marine Drive street section (shown above) tells the wrong message:

  • Buses are for Losers.
  • Build a bus route and get zero benefits for you community.

We see a much more positive role for Translink to play in the region.

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_hsu-section

HUMAN SCALE ONE MARINE DRIVE: Elements of the TRANSLINK PROPOSAL re-arranged according to the principle for ‘good’ urbanism.

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ARTERIAL REVITALIZATION CREATES ‘NEIGHBOHROOD SPINES’ SUPPORTING HIGH LEVELS OF SOCIAL MIXING

We see transit implementation as a catalyst for street revitalization and neighborhood intensification. 
We see transit implementation as the right way to build Human-Scale Urbanism without towers.
In order to achieve this Translink need only follow the requirements for ‘good’ urbanism, including:
1. STREET SPACE FOR SOCIAL MIXING = STREET SPACE FOR VEHICLES.
2. BUILDINGS SET BACK TO ACHIEVE HUMAN SCALE STREET ASPECT RATIO.
3. CONTINUOUS ROWS OF TREES PLANTED NEAR THE CENTER OF THE ROW.
4. TREE MEDIANS REDUCE STREET CROSSING DISTANCE.
5. RESULTING STREET ASPECT RATIO OF 1 : 3 ALLOWS SOLAR PENETRATION TO THE SIDEWALK ALL WINTER LONG.

 

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_kit-of-parts

RESHUFFLING THE CARDS IN THE TRANSLINK DECK MAKES A HUGE  DIFFERENCES IN THE ‘SENSE OF PLACE’.

The ‘kit of parts’ for Human Scale Urbanism is exactly the same as what Translink is proposing today (reading from left to right in the diagram above):

1 | Tree Medians

2 | Transit Pyramid (bus) Lanes

3 | Off-peak parking lanes

4 | Sidewalk space

5 | Car Lanes

6 | Streetwall

7 | Additional storey(s) to achieve Human Scale

8 |  Streetwall

Our proposal doesn’t really cost more money. First, it requires a thorough understanding of the benefits and the principles behind the Human Scale urbanism.

Then, it requires sharing this knowledge with local city halls.

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(1) Street Beautification

The principal problem with arterial design today is that it is programmed for ‘cars’ not ‘people.’ We have dubbed the practice ‘building streets that function as open sewers for cars.’ The alternative is to build arterials to function as the ‘urban spine’ of the communities they serve.

This noble (and profitable) goal can be achieved by applying these simple principles in human scale urbanism:

  1. RESTRICT PEDESTRIAN CROSSING DISTANCE TO 22′ OR 6.6 m.

(shown: 66 feet; one chain; 20 meters)

Our aim is a MAXIMUM crossing distance of 22 feet; ⅓ chain; 6.6 m. We achieve this by building tree medians at 6.6 m spacings.

In turn the tree medians act as ‘islands of safety’ where pedestrians can wait safely for a break in the traffic stream that makes it safe to cross the next two lanes.

2. 50% OF THE ROW DEDICATED TO SUPPORTING SOCIAL MIXING

Half of the street right-of-way is programmed for people uses, including: sidewalks, side walk cafés, tree planting and tree medians.

3. HUMAN SCALE

It has long been established in ‘good’ urbanism that open spaces presenting simple, whole number ratios give people a sense of place, a sense of well-being. Thus, urban spaces should be designed with proportions of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in their width to height ratios.

Here less is more. We have ‘tightened’ the street section from a 1 :4 aspect ratio to 1 : 3. Significantly, we have also increased the height of the streetwall adding another floor, or increasing the Floor Area Ration (FSR) by 50%.

4. WINTER SOLAR PENETRATION

The new streetwall ratio of 1 : 3 inflects to local conditions, allowing solar penetration to the sidewalk on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. This ensures solar penetration to the sidewalk all year round, a key consideration in our northern climate.

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(2) Neighborhood Revitalization

When the streetwall is set back for new construction, it is possible to achieve a ROW of 120 feet and a streetwall of 40 feet.

A 40-foot streetwall accommodates:

16′ Ground Floor Retail

12′ Second Level (commercial or residential)

12′ Third Level (commercial or residential)

10′ Fourth Half-Level (set back 30′ from the streetwall)

This kind of a building section can double or triple space along the arterials, promoting street revitalization, neighborhood intensification, and adding space and height without shadowing the street or dwarfing the passers-by.

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