In an online event today, I mentioned the "Battle of Robson Square" in Vancouver — an archetypal conflict between transit and civic placemaking that has arisen in a city that claims to be very pro-transit. It's a fascinating conflict worth watching for people far beyond Vancouver.
Fortunately, I don't need to write a post on this, because there's an excellent one by Peter Marriott, laying out the issues at stake, here. Peter's intro is an important challenge to any urban designer who thinks transit can just "get out of the way" of a beautiful design idea. Peter's article is also full of useful links to a wide range of voices in the conversation.
Why not close the square to all but transit vehicles?
The Robson bus has a conflict between straightness and connecting with rapid transit. The bus has to turn north at some point to connect with rapid transit. If it turns at Burrard or Granville, the connections are simple and fast. If it goes straight and connects at Stadium, connecting trips become much longer.
A bigger problem with the Robson bus – the reason it isn’t useful downtown – is that the route becomes loopy, dwells, and turns around downtown. It should be straightened downtown and connect through to Yaletown to better connect the large new population there.
Some ideas on how to do this are in the linked pdf. Some are mine, some are ripped out of old transit plans.
Urban designer who thinks transit can just “get out of the way” of a beautiful design idea will explain you they are “tired of the war rethoric”.
…and still you are right, a war on Transit is happening in Vancouver and Robson sqaure is the mother of all battles:
you can see in this 1975 plan, people use to have sharper mind on transit/pedestrian integration (and it is like authro of this report had read your book, isn’it?):
It’s a trolleybus that follows its wires, so it should be relatively easy to allow it to go through the pedestrian plaza, marking on the ground the place where it goes, to make sure pedestrians clear the area when the trolleybus is coming. As a trolley, it also causes almost no pollution and is quiet. It’s well-suited for a pedestrian plaza. A tram would be better (the tram would follow the evident tracks, insuring pedestrian safety) but a regular diesel bus would be unsightly (loud, smelly, creating a lot of vibrations and following a less well-defined route).