Vancouver is launching a big-picture revision of its transportation systems, a project that over the next two decades could ultimately affect everyone from car commuters to pedestrians to freight haulers.
Through an online survey, the city is collecting public feedback on the effort — called Vancouver Moves — before forming plans on how to “address the current and future transportation needs of the city’s residents and visitors,” the survey states. “Vancouver Moves will develop a list of needed transportation projects, programs, and policy updates for the city to implement over the next 20 years.”
The project takes a bird’s-eye view. It’s not about any one specific bicycle lane or crosswalk, but rather an over-arching look at how to make the city’s transportations systems work better for more people.
Loretta Callahan, spokeswoman for Vancouver’s Public Works Department, said the online survey takes around 15 or 20 minutes to complete.
“The current overall transportation system plan was adopted in 2004,” Callahan said. “The city will also be talking to residents about their transportation priorities, with a focus on communities that been historically under-served by transportation investments.”
The interactive online survey includes the results of a comprehensive analysis of the city’s transportation systems conducted over the last few months. It found some significant gaps, especially for pedestrians and cyclists.
The study found that 44 percent of Vancouver’s streets — 490 miles — are missing sidewalk segments, with most of the gaps concentrated on local streets north and east of downtown, as well as in southeast neighborhoods. Nine miles of those missing sidewalks are along major arterial roads.
It also discovered that along 161 miles of city streets, crosswalks are spaced more than 2,000 feet apart, meaning a typical pedestrian has to walk up to 20 minutes to get to a designated crossing.
Vancouver’s cyclists also encounter challenging circumstances on the city’s roads, the study found.
“Today, most of the city’s bike lanes are on busy streets, making them unsuitable for bicycle riders of all ages and abilities. There is also a lack of continuous bike connections across the city as many existing bicycle routes end abruptly or do not connect to another route,” the study states. “Neighborhood streets are comfortable for riding but are surrounded by high-stress collectors and arterials, creating an island effect. People can take short trips in their neighborhood but cannot connect to other destinations.”
The analysis acknowledged that COVID-19 will likely play a role in shaping the city’s transportation needs in years to come, possibly in ways not yet fully understood.
Commuter traffic, for example, dropped dramatically in high-volume areas — in the early months of quarantine, travelers on the Interstate 205/Highway 14 interchange plummeted by 40 percent below the norm. Vehicle traffic has since partially rebounded, but as employers and workers settle further into remote work models, some employees may decide to stay home even after the pandemic is over.
App-based food and grocery deliveries made more ubiquitous by COVID-19 could also persist well into the future, whether the goods are delivered by human beings or by automated technology, the analysis states.
“These new services and technologies present opportunities to improve mobility and accessibility for Vancouver. However, these advancements must also address the challenges of integrating new technology into the existing transportation system,” the document states.
So far, online feedback from Vancouver residents has focused primarily on traffic congestion on the Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 bridges.
“We have lived in Vancouver for many years. In that time traffic on I-5 and later 205 has increased to the point that getting to work in Portland, not to mention getting home, has become increasingly difficult,” one Vancouver resident wrote in the online survey.
“Traffic 30 years ago was bad, and it hasn’t gotten better in the interim,” another resident wrote. “I understand that the investment required makes it a decision that should not be taken lightly, but it starts to feel like we are dragging our feet, 20-some-odd years into the discussion.”
Revamping those river crossings is beyond the scope of the city, though Vancouver would serve as a partner; the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program’s Executive Steering Group, a panel focused on rebuilding the I-5 Bridge, includes Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle as well as leaders from C-Tran, the Port of Vancouver and the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council.
The steering group met for the first time on Nov. 7, just a few days before the Vancouver Moves site went live on Nov. 12.
In addition to comments about worsening bridge traffic, multiple people requested a more robust public transportation system.
“Vancouver/PDX transit does not take into account swing shift workers who need to get to work,” another resident responded. “There needs to be more transit options, such as a ferry, bus rapid, and light rail. Ideally these would run for longer hours as well.”
See the survey
The Vancouver Moves survey is available at www.beheardvancouver.org/VancouverMoves