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Alta project will promote biking, walking in downtown Vancouver

Buffered Bike Lane with a bike symbol and arrow pointing forward

Vancouver hopes to see more
of this downtown.
(Photo © J. Maus)

The City of Vancouver has awarded a $70,000 contract to Alta Planning and Design to promote biking, walking, ride-sharing and transit into downtown Vancouver. The project is set to officially roll out in January.

According to Vancouver Senior Planner Jennifer Campos, the purpose of the pilot project, which was paid for through a combination of two federal grants, is to garner support for creating a Business Improvement District (BID) to fund a proposed Transportation Management Association (TMA). The pilot project would attempt to demonstrate that outreach programs can be successful in reducing single occupancy automobile trips in downtown Vancouver, according to Campos.

“I hope we will do this pilot program for a year and then reach out to the business community with the results and see if they will be interested in a Business Improvement District fee for the Transportation Management District,” she said.

The Portland region has a robust network of TMAs that are actively involved in promoting biking, walking, ride-sharing and transit. There are currently TMAs up and running in the Lloyd District, Swan Island, Washington County, and most recently the South Waterfront.

Creating a BID to fund a TMA has been on the City of Vancouver’s to-do list for a few years. As part of Vancouver’s Growth and Transportation Efficiency Centers plan, the city started pursuing a TMA in 2008. Branded as Destination Downtown, the TMA was expected to be funded by the City of Vancouver, C-TRAN and members of the BID each contributing $60,000 a year.

There was just one glitch in the proposal in 2009. According to Campos, the business community wasn’t sold on the idea of the TMA and were hesitant about creating the required tax district. “They were not sure of the benefits,” said Campos.

City of Vancouver
Senior Planner Jennifer Campos.
(Photo: Marcus Griffith)

Their reluctance to create a tax district for this purpose wasn’t due to a dislike in reducing auto traffic. According to a 2009 survey, downtown businesses understand the problem:

“Key Stakeholders Interviews,” reads an analysis of the survey by Campos, “found near unanimous agreement that efforts need to move forward to reduce the number of employees arriving to work in cars. Few, if any, felt the current relationship to auto commuting was sustaining or wise.”

Campos said she expects Alta’s one year outreach effort to increase non-single occupancy commuter trips in downtown Vancouver by just over 3%. According to Campos, the targeted increase in mode splits are: 0.5% increase in mass transit use, 1.0% increase in biking, 1% increase in walking, 0.67% increase in ride share use.

Campos said the mode spilt increases are a “small, but crucial” step in reaching Vancouver City Center Vision goal of “at least 35%” of future downtown commuter traffic being from non-single occupancy motor vehicle modes. Based on the 2009 survey results, the city estimates there are 10,000 employees in downtown Vancouver with less than 1% biking, less than 1% walking, 3% using mass-transit and 8% using ride share (carpool, vanpool).

Also, according to the 2009 survey results, 60% of downtown employees live within the City of Vancouver and 53% of employees do not pay for parking, while the average cost for those that do pay for parking is $2.29 per day.

Presuming the 10,000 downtown employees is still a valid estimate, the targeted 3.17% increase in “alternative commuting options” works out to 317 additional people switching from a single occupancy motor vehicle to either mass transit, biking, walking, or ride share.

Alta isn’t ready to comment on its expectations for the project or on Vancouver’s ability to reach the targeted mode splits. “We are just getting started on [the project]… and at this point we haven’t made firm decisions,” Alta Program Manager Jessica Roberts responded via email.

Stay tuned for more information as project details are finalized.

For more Vancouver bike news, read our previous coverage.