The Boondoggle of Eighth Street

I have a lot of issues with the bus and pedestrian flow on the streets and sidewalks around the New Westminster Skytrain Station. Just so we’re all on the same page, here’s a map:

Because Google Maps is helpful, it didn’t label Eighth Street. It’s the big one that runs between the Old Spaghetti Factory and Ki Sushi.

First issue I have: Driving down Eighth towards Columbia, between Royal Avenue (off the top of the map) and Carnarvon Street, Eighth is two lanes in either direction. After Carnarvon, it’s one lane in each direction. One of the problems is that this isn’t very well marked before Carnarvon. There’s one sign and it’s off on the sidewalk, behind a wide angled-parking section, and it’s easily missed. Eighth, heading downhill, is wide enough for two lanes, and this throws people off.

There’s also a forced-left turn with a central island that’s used for getting into the underground parking at the Anvil Centre. I’ve seen drivers get stuck in this left-turn lane when they didn’t want to, so they cut into the oncoming lane and continue down Eighth.

Both of these confuse drivers in the mid-block of Eighth between Carnarvon and Columbia, and confused drivers are often inattentive while they figure out where they’re supposed to be going. Couple that with…

…my second issue: no crosswalk across Eighth between Columbia and Carnarvon. There used to be one, and people still jaywalk across there. Right under the Skytrain is where one of the station exits is, and if you’re going across the street (say, to Ki Sishi) then you’re likely going to jaywalk. Jaywalking pedestrians, combined with inattentive drivers, leads to potential disaster. Yes, there are crosswalks at Carnarvon and Columbia, but people are lazy.

From Patrick Johnstone’s post back in 2011 about the Multi-Use Civic Facility (now the Anvil Centre):

Before that crosswalk was installed, people walking out of the Skytrain wanting to cross 8th were asked to walk up or down the street a half block, in the rain, to the corner of Columbia or Carnarvon. The mid-block crossing not only provided a more direct crossing, it offered the rain shelter of the Skytrain line. Naturally, people jaywalked, creating a safety hazard for cars and busses before the crosswalk was installed.

With new retail and restaurant activities on the east side of 8th, the pedestrian traffic will only increase. Does the City think the people coming out of the Skytrain will now walk to the corner of Columbia (in the rain), wait for a light (in the rain) then cross, to get to he MUCF from the Skytrain, or from Plaza 88? Of course they will stay under the cover of the Skytrain, and they will Jaywalk, right in front of cars pulling into or out of the MUCF. Conflict will ensue. Someone may get killed.

To fix these two combined issues, I would suggest making the right-hand lane on Eighth before Carnarvon a right-turn-only turn lane with large, visible markings on the roadway, along with overhead signage (specifically R-82R in the Manual of Standard Traffic Signs & Pavement Markings). I would also suggest reinstating the crosswalk across Eighth, but adding pedestrian-controlled flashing warning lights, similar to those outside the library on Sixth Avenue.

My third issue is the bus stops.

Along Eighth there are two, one for the C3 and one for the C4. Both of them turn left off Eighth up Columbia. Here’s a little Google Earth map with some really crappy lines:

Red lines are curbs. The pink lines mark out the loading zone driveway that services the Shops at New West. The red polygon in the middle of Eighth marks out the forced left turn to get into the underground parking at the Anvil Centre. The green line is where passengers line up to catch the C3.

Do you see how the C3 passenger line bleeds into the loading zone driveway? That happens every single day in the evening rush hour, when more than 15 people are waiting for the bus.

It is horrible HORRIBLE design to have the passenger line crossing a driveway. I don’t know who thought this might be a good idea, but they need to be fired. This stop has been situated like this for at least a year with no change in sight. This can be fixed by swapping the C3 stop with the C9 stop, which is located underneath the Skytrain station. Ridership on the C9 is lower than the C3, so the C9 lines don’t get as long and won’t spill into the driveway.

The C3 and the C4 both have to turn left off Eighth onto Columbia. Do you see where the C4 stop is? It’s metres from the intersection. The bus has to cut clear across the right-hand turn lane to wedge itself into the left-hand turn lane. The C3 is marginally better, given it is further from the intersection.

This is incredibly stupid design and is easily fixed by swapping the stops for the C4 and the C8. The C8 turns right off Eighth onto Columbia, so it doesn’t have to cut across the right-hand turn lane to continue on its route. The C4 can turn right off Carnarvon onto Eighth, then easily get into the left-turn lane to continue on its route up Columbia.

I have other issues with Eighth (turn the taxi bay in front of the Old Spaghetti Factory into a passenger drop-off zone, move the taxi bay up around the corner to Carnarvon) but those are the major ones.

So. Four changes to make Eighth Street between Carnarvon Street and Columbia Avenue a little better for pedestrians, traffic, and transit:

  1. Convert right-hand lane on Eighth, downhill before Carnarvon, to right-turn-only.
  2. Reinstate crosswalk across Eighth, adding pedestrian-controlled warning lights.
  3. Swap the C3 and C9 bus stops.
  4. Swap the C4 and C8 bus stops.

Get it done, New Westminster.

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