Traffic conditions in Vancouver’s popular neighborhoods will look a lot different this summer.
On Wednesday, the City Council unanimously passed a motion to close Gastown to car traffic from July to August.
This will be the beginning of a pilot project. Water Street, Richards Street to Cambie Street. Pedestrian-only, the inner two blocks of Water Street from Cambie Street to Abbott Street and Carrar Street are “car-accessible.”
Vancouver City Councilor Sarah Kirby-Yon said the project comes at the perfect time, with Vancouver already attracting global attention.
“This gives us the chance to have two summers before FIFA comes and literally hosts the world,” she said.
After July and August, staff will revisit the pilot project in the fall to consider next steps. Those include what other areas of the city will look the same and whether it will be permanent or seasonal.
“This will improve the pedestrian experience along every block of Water Street while also accommodating residential, EasyPark parks, tour bus pickup and drop-off, and corporate loading and delivery.” City of Vancouver officials report. He explained.
The report states that staff discussed the plan with the Gastown Business Improvement Institute (GBIS).
“GBIS has expressed concern about the overall duration of changes to traffic patterns in the neighborhood, which will last from March until early September. Staff are considering alternative approaches to the summer trial to shorten the closure period. ”, the report states.
“In response to specific requests from GBIS, staff considered running a pilot in parallel with construction. “Staff do not believe this will be a successful pilot.”
This is the next phase of a larger, multi-year, $10 million plan that also includes restoration, maintenance, and enhancements to the area’s historic appearance to make it the vibrant district the city represents. Masu.
Gastown business community divided over project
Wally Wargolett, executive director of the Gastown Business Improvement Association, expressed concerns about the plan on behalf of the association, which represents 564 members.
Wargolet says he appreciates the investment but doesn’t think a pilot project without cars is a good idea.
“We’re concerned about the fiscal responsibility of taking $10 million and putting 45 percent of it toward infrastructure investment. That’s why this conversation started. “We were concerned about the decline of the area,” he said. .
“It just doesn’t make fiscal sense to spend 55 percent on research and pilots.”
Wargolet added that the staff report did not clearly portray the business community’s concerns.
“We don’t have clear metrics on how to measure success,” he says. “It’s great to have more people on the streets, but in conversations with San Diego and Montreal, we certainly have more people on the streets, but it doesn’t translate into more revenue for our businesses. .”
Several business owners expressed concerns about access to their businesses, parking, security, and public restrooms.
But Water Street Vinyl Records owner David Jones says he welcomes the move.
“I’m really happy. Like many other big cities around the world that have done this successfully, Vancouver is finally able to think forward-thinking,” he told CityNews.
Jones said he is not concerned about access for delivery vehicles because there are alternate routes for delivery vehicles to enter the neighborhood. He added that the pilot project will take place during the busiest time of the year, so even if business does not increase, it will definitely improve the community atmosphere.
“I was already thinking about getting a front-line busking license so I could perform,” he said. “If they close the roads, that makes sense to me. It creates more community and makes it safer for families and children.”
John Buchan, district manager of Maison & Café Kitsuné, said he was also excited to be involved.
“During the summer, we get a lot of tourists in this area. We have about three cruise ships coming to the pier at the same time,” he said.
“The more people we have, the better it is for the company. I’m really excited.”
-With files from Kate Walker