Is the Heights’ Hastings Street a Stroad?
By Slow Streets
‘Is Hastings Streets a “Stroad’?’ is a new report that summarizes data collected by Slow Streets in Burnaby Heights on Hastings Street from Boundary Road to Beta Avenue. Slow Streets gathered data on all transportation users on Hastings Street including: people walking, cycling, driving and using transit. This report presents observational data of over 1,200 people conducted by Slow Streets to find out who is visiting Burnaby Heights and what they do once they are there.
The purpose of ‘Is Hastings Streets a “Stroad’?’ is to provide information on the quality of the sidewalk experience along Hastings Street in Burnaby, called “The Heights” neighborhood. Over the years, there have been calls from business owners on Hastings street for traffic calming measures. In particular, the upcoming Evergreen Rapid Transit Line is being seen as catalyst for change.
Hastings St. is by no means unique – may North American cities face similar challenges where a dedicated right-of-way is trying to do everything: moving traffic through quickly while trying to sustain a fine grained retail environment for people on foot. The lack of a comfortable and inviting sidewalk experience is problematic for the economic success of a retail street since everyone eventually ends up on foot whether it’s to visit or shop.
Burnaby Heights features many of the urban design elements that support a vibrant and economically viable street, yet the potential is eroded by over 33,000 vehicles that travel down Hastings Street through the Heights everyday. This is demonstrated by the 234 people walking per hour volumes, which is significantly lower than other similar retail streets (64% lower than Commercial Drive).
While the large volume of vehicles moving through quickly erodes the comfort on the sidewalk, the removal of the south-side parking lane for the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane during the evening peak hours (3-6pm) only worsens the experience by placing fast moving vehicles right next to the sidewalk.
Slow Streets observations and an intercept survey conducted by the Heights Merchants Association (86 respondents) both show that the majority (69%) of people arrive at the Heights by walking, cycling and transit. This goes against the common belief that only prioritizing vehicles is vital for the success of the retail street, even in what would be considered a suburban municipality. This is further shown when 43% of the survey respondents stated that traffic related issues made their visit uncomfortable in some way during the survey date.
Prioritizing the speed and movement of vehicles not only diminishes business revenues because it degrades the sidewalk experience, but it is also expensive because it increases collisions. There were over 1,400 vehicular collisions between 2009 and 2013, that is roughly one per day! Vehicular collisions cost Canadians $25 Billion dollars every year. Moving vehicles through quickly also has a high human toll, with higher speeds ensuring more deaths and injuring.
Therefore to maximize the economic viability of streets with fine grained retail uses, the priority should be to provide access for automobiles, not to move them through quickly. Slow Streets recommends a suite of solutions. Implementing a lower speed limit on Hastings St. and restoring permanent parking are solutions that could be implemented relatively quickly with minimal cost and immediate improvements for safety and comfort.
A summary sheet of the findings is available below, to read the full report follow this link.