The city is developing an ambitious transportation plan with the goal of having at least two-thirds of all trips made in Vancouver done on foot, bicycle or transit by 2040.
That would mean a significant decrease in people using motor vehicles in a city that has a static road system competing with an increased population. But as Jerry Dobrovolny, the city's director of transportation, pointed out Monday in a news conference to update reporters on the plan, there is evidence residents are jettisoning the car or leaving it in the garage.
In the past decade, the city's population increased by 18 per cent, jobs went up 16 per cent, yet the number of vehicles entering the city decreased by five per cent.
That phenomenon is even more dramatic downtown, where the population increased by 75 per cent, jobs grew by 26 per cent, yet vehicles heading downtown dropped by 20 per cent. "In fact, the actual number of cars we have coming in to the city are less today than they were in 1965," Dobrovolny said.
So why is that happening?
Dobrovolny rattled off a list that included better transit, more bike lanes, more homes near transit hubs and building homes where people work.
He acknowledged expensive parking rates, the cost of gas and the general costs of owning a car-insurance, maintenance, etc.-are also factors in the drop in motor vehicle use. "What we've learned from the successes of the [1997 transportation plan] is that if we support options for people to walk, cycle and take transit, that's what they'll do," Dobrovolny said. "It's not about penalizing car drivers because we always know there will be times when the car is the most viable trip, or sometimes, the only viable trip."
Last week, city council unanimously approved keeping downtown's separated bike lanes permanent. In addition, the city recently approved a "pedestrian safety study and action plan" that includes ongoing improvements to sidewalks and crossing lights.
Improved and increased public transit, however, will be the key to the city reaching its goal of having two-thirds of trips by 2040 done by modes other than the car, Dobrovolny said.
"Public transit is critical as a transportation option for many, many thousands of people coming in to the city from around the region," he said, noting the city saw a 50 per cent increase in transit trips in the last decade. "We know from the Olympic experience as well as the Canada Line experience that when we provide fast, frequent, reliable transit service, the public uses it and uses it in droves."
But the Broadway/Commercial transit hub is a different story. Dobrovolny noted that up to 2,000 people are left waiting for a bus at peak rush hour times outside the busy SkyTrain station. "That's just not simply acceptable," he said.
Despite the focus on pedestrians, cycling and transit, Dobrovolny said the plan supports a "thriving economy" in Vancouver and moving goods back and forth to the port.
A list of policy options tied to the 2040 plan can be viewed on the city's website. The city wants feedback on the plan and is encouraging residents to fill out an online survey on its website. The deadline is July 13.
The final draft of the plan will go before council in the fall.