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UBC students tackle 49th Avenue congestion

A class project by a group of second year UBC economics students may lead to a faster and safer commute along one of Vancouver’s busiest corridors.
UBC students
UBC economics students Fiona Truong (L), Rukhsaar Manji and Thavisha Fernando. Photo submitted

A class project by a group of second year UBC economics students may lead to a faster and safer commute along one of Vancouver’s busiest corridors.  The assignment in Robert Gateman’s microeconomics class was for each group to pick a city policy they cared about, research it and come up with solutions to make it better.

Thavisha Fernando’s group of five women picked the parking policy along the predominantly residential section of 49th Avenue between Fraser and Kerr streets, which allows roadside parking in three-hour increments. The area sees some of the worst traffic congestion in the city, Fernando said.

Parking takes up one third of the road making the narrow street even more congested, she said. The students’ solution is to restrict parking all day or at least during peak hours — from 7 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. The students recommend the additional lane created by imposing the restrictions be available for cyclists and buses only.  The students say when they talked to people in the area, they expected to hear from transit users and vehicle drivers. But they were surprised by the number of cyclists who approached them to say vehicles trying to get from the driving lanes to the parking lanes often cut cyclists off. Because of this feedback, the group included cyclist safety among the reasons to support parking restrictions.

According to the group’s proposal, the benefits of implementing their plan — a reduction in travel times for both transit and vehicle users, less fuel consumption and increased safety for cyclists — far outweigh the possible negative impact on residents who live and park along the corridor. “Restricting parking is an incentive to the residents to park in their own garages,” said group member Rukhsaar Manji, an international student from Tanzania.  

The students presented their proposal and a petition with 500 signatures to the City of Vancouver engineering services last week. The access granted to them surprised Fernando.  

“When we first talked with our professor, he said we would be lucky to even get a meeting with the City of Vancouver. They don’t want to listen to you — a lot of people told us that. And you know, the City of Vancouver on the other hand was very nice to us and invited us in and we had a long discussion about it, “she said.

The engineer they spoke to was interested in their data and solutions, in particular restricting parking during peak times, but requested the students next target a wider sample of people in different parts of Vancouver and sees if there is another area more in need of attention. The students are in the middle of fulfilling these requests. The class assignment is due Nov. 29 but the students say their activism will continue until the city takes action on the problem. They are continuing to circulate their paper petition and will launch an online petition shortly.

The students were not able to say how much implementing their proposals would cost.

The City was unavailable for comment.

For information on the project go to facebook.com/reducingcongessionvancouver.

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