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Reclaim Prior. Reconnect our Neighbourhood. Restore Strathcona.

The Strathcona community is outraged by the City of Vancouver’s proposal to maintain the intolerable traffic capacity and traffic impacts of our neighbourhood’s Prior Street as part of the Viaduct Removal Plan.

In less than two weeks, over 1000 signatures have been collected on a petition to demand the calming of Prior Street as part of this plan. The calming of Prior Street, which local residents have been waiting for since the viaducts were built in 1972, is also endorsed by the Strathcona Residents Association, Strathcona Community Centre Association, Raycam Community Centre and has support in the communities of Grandview Woodlands, Crosstown and North East False Creek.

Below are some frequently asked questions to help clarify the concerns of the Strathcona community:

Q. How does Prior/Venables function today?
A. Today, Prior/Venables delivers 15,000 to 25,000 high-speed vehicles a day, with all their related health and safety risks, through a residential neighbourhood.
The Viaduct Plan measures “road function” and “traffic manageability”, not measures of “liveabilty” and “sustainability”.  To quote the City’s analysis, ‘Prior and Venables from Clark to Gore Avenue currently act as a primary arterial street feeding traffic to and from the viaducts, with two full lanes of traffic eastbound during the pm peak and two full lanes westbound during the am peak (when parking is stripped). during peak periods Prior/Venables from Clark to the viaducts carry approximately 1,500 vehicles per hour, operating at a volume to capacity (V/C) ratio of approximately 0.95. This is at the upper limit of what is considered manageable congestion on the road network, as any increase in volumes would result in significant adverse impacts’.

For local residents, which include two elementary schools, several senior homes (three of which are located right on Prior Street), several daycares, two community centres and numerous places of worship, the traffic impacts on Prior Street are intolerable. Using the word ‘function’ to describe the current situation on Prior Street is undoubtedly referring to commuter car traffic only, not to the reality of residents of Strathcona who must cross Prior to visit the parks and gardens, playing fields and their neighbours.

The City states that 1500 vehicles per hour is ‘considered manageable’. We can only interpret this absurd statement as meaning manageable for the traffic flow, but who is analyzing what is manageable for human beings? Has the city determined how this volume of traffic pollution effects the health of the families who live near it? Is the number of accidents and almost accidents between pedestrians and cars in this volume of ‘manageable’ traffic deemed acceptable? Why is it that local residents choose to take their children, dogs and family outings to other parks, several blocks away or even in other neighbourhoods, rather then use Strathcona Park which is right across the street from them?

Q. How is Prior Street depicted on the City's Viaduct Removal Plan?
A. Prior appears as an extension of the newly expanded Pacific Boulevard , which will be doubled to six lanes. This not only maintains the current intolerable high traffic capacity of the street, but will potentially expand it.
The City claims that much of this Pacific Blvd high speed traffic could choose to turn onto Main or Quebec Streets, thus avoid using Prior. But with Prior acting as the ‘straight line’ extension of Pacific Blvd in this new traffic network design, we can all assume that most drivers will choose to stay on the fastest, most direct route east for as long as possible before having to make a turn. Moreover, the new plan feeds more traffic onto Prior by enabling cars on Pacific and Quebec to access Prior directly, whereas before this traffic was directed onto Terminal Avenue.
Q. How will Prior/Venables function with the proposed road network changes? If the viaducts come down will there less traffic on Prior?
A. No one can guarantee any traffic reduction on Prior Street if it is to be designated as a major east-west arterial.
In essence, the City is proposing to maintain an arterial level of dangerous traffic on a residential street. The City's hastily written "clarification" on the post-viaducts Prior Street situation posted on the COV website on June 19th, 2012 illustrates that the planning for Prior Street is truly not taking the Strathcona community’s concerns into consideration.

In this document, the City ‘assures’ us that vehicle numbers should more or less stay the same on Prior Street after the removal of the viaducts, at a mere .95 volume to capacity ratio (a measure of traffic congestion). By agreeing to maintain this huge traffic volume the City is indicating their concern is more about commuter travel time than pedestrian safety. To be clear, Strathcona is more concerned with the health and safety of our neighbours than of the time it might take a commuter to move from point A to point B as they traverse our community.

The City states with confidence that ‘traffic on Prior/Venables will not increase as a result of the proposed changes’. How can they know this? What about the traffic added by the 4 million square feet of residential housing they will facilitate building on these lands? (Statement by Kevin McNaney, Assistant Director of Planning for the City of Vancouver). What about the current traffic volume on Pacific Boulevard that will now be directly routed onto Prior? They City says the building of the Evergreen skytrain line will help reduce outbound traffic from downtown as well. Is this line going to be built?

The traffic in and out of downtown that was formerly on the viaducts is to now be serviced by a ramp to/from West Georgia that connects to a new six-lane Pacific Boulevard (which the city describes as a "great-street"). In addition to downtown traffic, Pacific Blvd will be collecting Yaletown and False Creek traffic including the stadiums and the new towers that will be constructed.

Q. Are the homeowners in Strathcona opposing this plan because of their concern for their property values?
A. The residents, tenants, business owners and homeowners involved in opposing the City's plans for Prior Street are motivated first and foremost by a concern for the safety of pedestrians on this dangerous street. 
Many regular pedestrian users of Prior are very young or very old. There are three senior's housing facilities on Prior. Despite the perception with it's million-dollar homes, Strathcona has the most economically and socially diverse population in the city with a significant number of low-income families living within its boundaries. 
Q. Will calming Prior mean more traffic/danger to people on Hastings?
A. Our traffic calming suggestions do not include the idea that Hastings Street take any more traffic than it currently does, nor do we think the traffic on Prior should be diverted to there.
The current viaduct traffic patterns indicate most of the viaduct traffic comes from East Van, south of Hastings. Hastings traffic is currently coming from North of Hastings, North Van and Burnaby. Our suggestions of diverting current Prior traffic onto Malkin Avenue and/or National Street should not effect Hastings Street at all.
Q. The traffic has to go somewhere, where are you suggesting it go?
A. There are two roads south of Prior that are regularly used by Strathcona residents as an alternative to Prior: National and Malkin.
Redirecting some of the traffic from Prior onto these two existing roads would be an inexpensive, low intervention and green choice for the City.

Unfortunately, the City is saying that the area these two roads are in will only be examined and developed separately as part of an Eastern Core Strategy, and in an unknown future date. In the absence of said Eastern Core Strategy or any timeline or funding or commitment for its implementation, it would be reckless for the City to approve the viaducts removal plan as it stands. Viaducts removal in the absence of any ECS means it could be years or decades before we can return to the discussion about traffic calming on Prior. Vague promises of future Eastern Core Strategies, lacking timeline or commitment are not good enough. We are waiting for the city to right a forty year old wrong.

Q. If you are suggesting to the City to increase car traffic on Malkin Avenue, couldn’t that put the Strathcona Garden’s land at risk? What if the City decided to expropriate the gardens to make way for the cars?
A. If the City diverted the Prior Street traffic on to Malkin Avenue and removed the street parking on Malkin, they will be providing a street as wide as Prior for the traffic flow.
Malkin is a very wide road and there should be no need to expropriate any land around it to create an equal sized alternate route to Prior.