Ask Pat: Carnarvon

jenarbo asks—

Carnarvon between 8th and 10th is a mess for pedestrians and stressful for drivers. What solutions have been considered, and has anything been decided? Any timeline?

Ugh. It is a mess. I see several problems:

The exit from the Shops at New West Station is wide and friendly, then hits a relatively narrow sidewalk, with a strangely-conceived planter as one tries to get to the crossing at 8th. The other direction takes you past one parking entrance, then the gaping maw of the “breezeway” where drivers, busses and pedestrians all routinely ignore their respective and confusing red lights, until the least-functional three-way stop I have ever seen (one that is completely overwhelmed by the number of pedestrians the crosswalk accommodates) leads to a roundabout the functioning of which seems to confound the common sense of BC drivers which provides bad sightlines to another crosswalk on 10th. The sidewalk is congested with waiting bus passengers and street furniture, made less appealing by the looming (almost overhanging) 60 foot sheer grey sun-blocking wall that rises straight up over the entire 500 feet, while crossing to the sunny side of the street is perilous what with traffic back-ups, confused turns at those aforementioned driveways or three-way stops attempting to get through any opening that may occur in the line of cars and busses only to get to a sidewalk that is more driveway that crosswalk for most of its extent…

From an urban planning perspective, the Plaza 88 complex was a bold and brilliant idea, but from an urban design perspective, the result is close to a disaster. And I really don’t know how to fix it.

I have heard a few radical suggestions: make the road one-way eastbound (although it is generally thought that one-way streets make situations worse if pedestrian safety is your goal, which is why many urban centres are now removing them). Closing the street to traffic between McInnes and the Parkade exit has been suggested (which would only help with a few of the many issues, some locals would complain loudly, and I don’t think our traffic engineers would take it seriously).  Removing street parking would impact a few local businesses, although there is always parking available in the public lots in Plaza88, and would allow a better traffic-calmed street profile with wider sidewalks and better sightlines (but the back-ups would continue).

But no, I have not heard any serious plans, or timelines to implement them.

One thing I don’t want to do right now is make it worse. During recent discussions at Council about the “4th tower” at Plaza 88, this topic was raised numerous times. With another parking entrance on Carnarvon between the roundabout and the three-way stop, with another 6-story podium rising straight up from the sidewalk, with worsened sightlines and more pressure on the street – this is going to be a much harder building to approve until we recognize that Carnarvon is not working well now, and the addition of a stop light at McInnes is not going to solve the problems.

I am open to suggestion.

6 comments on “Ask Pat: Carnarvon

  1. I don’t have the answer but I will comment that I frequently drive that stretch only to get to the overpass. Is there a way to improve access to the Quay through a different route?

  2. I live in Plaza 88 and agree something needs to be done about this, it’s a complete nightmare for all the reasons you said! From the roundabout all the way to people blocking my parkade entrance to pedestrians literally wandering all over the street. I don’t have a solution either. I hope Council takes this seriously and recognizes the urgency, it’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt.

  3. Great description of the problem, Pat! I live in one of the towers and am constantly frustrated with both drivers and pedestrians…. Drivers who don’t obey the traffic rules (why is a roundabout so hard to understand?) and pedestrians who just cross wherever they feel like it on Carnarvon.

    I agree with you, though. I don’t know if there is a solution to the mess. It’s too bad, too, because the Shops have lots of potential. I think one of the reasons so many of those shops sit vacant is just that, people aren’t thinking of it as a place to “shop”, it’s rather stressful between parking and walking around, and so it is just a place people walk through towards or from transit.

  4. As a resident of 888 Carnarvon(tower1), The tower above the Timmies! I can tell you that our private parking entrance is always tricky to enter or exit. Im always stressed about hitting pedestrians that ignore crossing rules. The parking on the side with the pawn shop should be removed. The loading zone beside the spaghetti factory should be enlarged. The bus loading zones should be reset to more optimal spots. I think they could redo the bus drive thru to hold more buses. A get people out of the rain. But hey i still love this location to live!

  5. And cars that stop in the no stopping zone forcing you into coming traffic, and, and, and… Great summary. If we’re going to change things, why not go radical? Shut down Carnarvon to vehicles completely between 8th and McInnes/10th. Turn it into a pedestrian mall.

    We could do a tonne of different things with it. The east side could be set up as a proper bus loop/driveway for Plaza 88 parking access. With more room there it should reduce the issues with cars and pedestrians at that gate. The west end could be opened up as a street market, parklet, art space, or some other creative idea.

    The shopping centre still has vehicle access from Columbia and McInnes, and the breezeway could be configured to give car access to Columbia as well if needed.

    I don’t think the businesses on Carnarvon would be drastically affected. On the south is mall offices which wont care, and a restaurant that would benefit from the new tower going in. The dollar store is right by 8th, and the other end is a pharmacy, tutoring centre and union offices. The pharmacy again would benefit from new residents, and the others have parking and vehicle acces nearby on 10th. That said, the street parking there is usually busy during the day, so I could be off on this.

    The one business that would be significantly impacted is the garage/car dealer. It’s right in the middle of the block and (obviously) require car access. But isn’t that going to disappear as part of the redevelopment?

    Through traffic trying to avoid Columbia or royal would be affected, but I don’t believe Carnarvon is intended as a thoroughfare anyways. Exiting quayside to the east gets forced onto Begbie, which can be irritating when the trains are busy. If you shut it down between McInnes and 10th, access to and from the North also becomes problematic, either zigzagging through downtown or going east into 12th.

    No doubt there are many more issues, but I think (and I say this as a resident of Quayside and someone who walks and drives that strech daily) they would be better issues to deal with than the unsafe mess we have there now. I’m sure many down here would balk at it, but I would totally support a move like this.

  6. I too live in Tower 1, 898 Carnarvon Street at the west end of the block, right beside McInnis overpass. I too echo all the commenters here about the significant congestion on this block on a daily basis caused by the sheer numbers of pedestrians and cars. I know that at least one other high rise building is going up on the north side of the block, maybe two, which will introduce many more cars and people to the area. As well, City Council is currently considering the developer’s plan for the 4th Plaza 88 tower, to be located in the 900 Carnarvon where the empty lot currently sits. I am extremely concerned that council does not have a good understanding about just how congested we already are around there, or they don’t care. Adding a 40 storey building there, with something like 500 units, and then one or two additional high rises on the north side of 800 Carnarvon, and we will have traffic at a stand still. The noise, pollution, garbage, congestion, stress and danger will go up dramatically.

    Is it not possible for council and city planning staff to take a holistic approach to these things so that the overall effect of each new addition to the neighborhood is factored in.

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