Thursday, December 15, 2011

Drivability and walkability after the Brentwood Mall Redevelopment

Several of my posts have focussed on the need for improving walkability and cyclability in our neighbourhoods and my tone may appear to be anti-driving to those that would never consider walking anywhere other than to their car.  My seemingly anti-driving tone is only a product of the fact that our neighbourhoods and cities have been designed with the automobile as the centrepiece of moving people and goods over long distances with nearly no thought for other forms of movement.  Believe it or not, I am not a cycling fanatic (I have a bike but haven't ridden it for over a year) and I do own a car (in fact between my wife and I, we have 2 cars).   I have had the luxury of being able to use public transit to get to work and to walk for at least half of my shopping needs as I live near Brentwood Mall.  The convenience of having 2 cars for the busy moments of my life is still something I have been willing to spend (or waste) my money on.  My personal goal is to reduce my need for having 2 cars and eventually to having no cars as this area begins to add enough amenities to allow me to do everything within walking and cycling distance.  I digress...

Having had a chance to view the map showing the potential locations of the new car lanes, entry/exit points into the BW Mall property as well as the underground parking entries/exits in the BW Mall Redevelopment, some pedestrian and driving issues will be resolved but other potentially problematic issues may arise.  Let's start with the positives.


  • The creation of a walkable outdoor strip (within the current BW Mall parking lot) lined with shops away from the noisy Lougheed Hwy will create a more calm environment for everyone to leisurely stroll around among the outdoor amenities of the new mall.  The "Fashion" and "Village" sections of the new street will be buffered from the noise of Lougheed Hwy by the placement of commercial fronts and high-rise towers along its outer length.   I know that I'm not the only one that ends up feeling a sense of urgency when I walk along a busy, noisy, high-speed street despite not having to get anywhere in a rush.  The noise of high-speed traffic is a source of unnecessary stress for pedestrians.

  • In a previous post, a reader made a comment about the current chaos that occurs at the eastern exit from BW Mall, north of Beta and Lougheed and across from the Brentwood Gate complex at Beta Ave.  The nearly non-stop crossing of pedestrians at that uncontrolled intersection (instead of at Lougheed and Beta where traffic signals are in place) is a potentially dangerous situation for both pedestrians and drivers as it has become a frustrating bottleneck for drivers.  There you go... I just cited an issue that negatively affects drivers.  I speak of that location from the experience of having both walked and driven there (I don't intend to test my cycling prowess on those slopes of Beta though... anyone?). The closing of that exit and its relocation onto Lougheed Hwy will divert pedestrians coming out of Brentwood Drive down to Lougheed Hwy to cross Beta Ave.
Though calm during early mornings, this spot is a scene of constant chaos during the day as pedestrians and drivers navigate this uncontrolled intersection at Beta Ave and Brentwood Drive.

  • The relocation of parking stalls underground will make the site less treacherous to the eyes of pedestrians trying to get to Brentwood Station.  I currently have to navigate through the parking lot to get to the station and am always looking over my shoulder during dark, early mornings as I have to walk in and out of car lanes.

Potential Negatives

  • The envisioned plan for underground parking entry/exit points has them placed well within the mall site and would require vehicles to cross above-ground at intersections with the "Fashion" and "Village" streets where pedestrians would be crossing.  The Station Square entrance to the underground parking off Kingsborough and McKay has been a frustrating place for drivers since the day it was built.  It is always a constant bottleneck for drivers as they wait for pedestrians to intermittently cross the intersection.  The random, unstructured pace of pedestrian movement has never been compatible with the 4-way stop located at Station Square.  This situation leads to unnecessary idling as drivers are nervously lined up waiting to cross as the crowds unexpectedly appear, disappear and reappear.  A dark, rainy day or night makes it even worse.   It's no bed of roses for pedestrians either.  Solution:  Perhaps the entry into the underground parking could be placed at the outer edge at Lougheed Hwy and at Willingdon Ave from where vehicles could go directly underground via ramps.  An "emergency/service vehicles only" lane onto the "High Street could be created to meet safety and servicing needs.  The space that is opened up along the "Village" and "Fashion" streets from the removal of the intersections could be used for further enhancements or for more commercial space.

  • The arrival of nearly 3000 new residents at the BW Mall and the increase in visits from surrounding areas of Metro Vancouver will end up creating more traffic woes for the residents of the single-family homes in the Brentwood Park neighbourhood.  Rat running is already becoming a problem as many drivers are becoming increasingly aggressive and rude as they cut though the neighbourhood, particularly along Brentlawn Drive between Willingdon and Delta Aves.  The BW Mall Redevelopment will only exacerbate the problem.  Solution:  Residents of the area must voice their concerns about traffic in their neighbourhood before the problem becomes worse.  Local residents must speak at the public hearings and the financial burden should fall on the developer and or City to fund traffic calming in BW Park and not on the residents as the Burnaby Local Area Services Program (LASP) currently requires.  The City might allow the developer to increase density in exchange for funding traffic calming in BW Park.  This will never happen unless enough local residents speak up at the public hearings.

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