I sit on the public advisory committee for pedestrian and cyclist access to and design of the new LRT stations. Sometimes my comments are welcome there, and sometimes I feel like the skunk at a garden party.
After last week, I was a stunned bunny.
The subject was (again) cyclist and pedestrian access to the new stations. There was some useful stuff, like the likely walk-in catchment zone, the cycle-in catchment zone, and the zone where it is just too much effort to get out the bike so someone might walk; and zone where someone might decide, since they were already on the bike, to cycle all the way and skip the LRT completely.
The rule of thumb, according to the well-suited consultant from the West Coast of the USA, was about 2-4% of the walkins would be cyclists, and their catchment zone is 3.5km.
The consultants had tables that showed the expected transfers from bus to rail at each station, the walkins, and thus the cycle-ins. OC Transpo has then gone out to all the existing BRT stations to count the actual bikes to compare to the projection. All well and good. And did I mention that all the city staff and consultants at the meeting were swell and nice people.
But then the meeting swerved off into the surreal. Picture a large City Hall boardroom in all its splendor. Five or six senior city staff and consultants. Four public advisory people (late in the meeting, it grew to five persons…).
You see, the whole discussion was on “how many bike posts to put at each station”. There will be a minimum of four posts and rings, meaning 8 bike parking spaces, at two locations for each station (since each station has two entrances…). A few stations will have more, a few less.
And this went on and on. The City is being Frugal (was Watson eavesdropping through the walls??) with our tax dollars. They don’t want to install too many posts.
Except I had the distinctly uncomfortable feeling that the staff was consuming more dollars talking than the posts were worth, installed, and by City staff to boot. This evening meeting followed up on a similar afternoon meeting, with wa-a-a-a-y more city planning and advisory staff attending (it was the great Technical Advisory Committee, those who are paid by the city as opposed to the lesser unwashed Public Advisory Committee, who don’t get paid). That American consultant had been flown in, and was being paid some per diem. Probably hotel rooms too. And all those city staff with lo-o-0-ng titles, none of which actually had the word pedestrian or cycling in them. And there would be secretaries, back room juniors, senior managers, PPT artists, and overhead to go with all that.
Now for a good part of this I wasn’t worried about how many bike parking posts they might put in. After all, most of the stations have enormous overhangs for most of their lengths, so more posts could be added later, possibly for less than $5000 each. At previous meetings, all the under-eaves space had been identified as bike parking. So much, we might be forgiven for thinking we were in Holland.
But wait, there was a catch (isn’t there always…). It gradually dawned on me that the reason they were so anxious to identify the actual amount of bike parking posts required in model and reality, was because the drawings now showed all the space not being used up by the posts, as being handed off to become planters and concrete walls. If a station is designed for 4 parking posts, that is all there ever will be in most cases. There will be no room to expand, unless other features are expensively removed.
I suggested that should there not be enough city posts, there were always lots of directional posts, no parking posts, bus stop posts, and other sign clutter upon which a bike could be attached. But no, we were solemnly told, there won’t be any clutter of posts as everything will be put on single ganged-up sign post pillars (yet to be designed). I hope my face didn’t show my true reaction to that statement.
And what could I say of the proposal that the downtown west station entrance at Place de Ville (by the door to the Podium Building, which is about to be torn down and replaced by a 20+ storey office tower) was to be allocated exactly 3 parking posts, while six inches away the entire overhang of Tower C (Transport Canada) is a sea of hundreds of spaces, all clogged with bikes. If the City had to go spit in the sea, it would take a hundred staff and consultants dozens of meetings to decide on the volume of spit, as if it made a difference.
How could something so rational and good like planning for bike parking seem to go so wrong? Too much effort was going into planning jargon and high concepts, at the expense of some pretty obvious common sense and right-before-your-nose solutions.
If I am still on the City circulation list for a copy of the study, I will report next week on the latest station designs, when I can post some pic too. Hint: some shrinkage in size and features. Think of a wool sweater in a very hot wash followed by a very hot dryer. A very very hot dryer.