Panic not, commuters.
The 2010 Winter Olympics, which are less than five months away, are not going to be the traffic and transit armageddon that some residents in Metro Vancouver might be predicting.
But for several weeks starting in February, they are going to require many of us to change our travelling habits. That’s the word from Dale Bracewell, the City of Vancouver’s director of Olympic transportation. Bracewell has the unenviable task of finding a way to keep athletes, spectators, volunteers and work-a-day commuters moving in and around the city during 17 intense days of competition and partying, not to mention the Paralympic Games that follow.
“There will be impacts,” he told me in understated fashion last week. Get ready for everything from heavy downtown parking restrictions, to no-stopping zones, to the highly publicized Olympics Lanes, which are reserved for VANOC accredited vehicles and TransLink buses.
As you might imagine, these will not be ideal conditions for single occupant vehicles. The Olympics transportation plan wisely prioritizes transit whenever possible.
It also makes the case for cycling. Some may scoff at the notion of riding a bike during the relatively frigid month of February. But Bracewell notes — quite rightly — that these won’t be ordinary times. Braving the elements notwithstanding, getting on a two-wheeler could be the most hassle-free form of transport going. This might be especially true for the thousands who will be working or volunteering at Olympics sites such as the downtown stadiums or the athletes’ village.
“For those who have a bike and are ready to go, we want to make sure the bike option is well thought out,” he said. “Even though (the number of cyclists) is a small percentage, it’s not a small number — it’s the equivalent of 40 to 60 buses.”
Another best bet for getting around during the Olympics: walking. Significant stretches of Granville, Robson, Beatty and Mainland streets will be devoted to pedestrians only.
These foot traffic corridors will help folks move easily between Games sites, and to easily access SkyTrain and Canada Line stations.
While VANOC and the city have an Olympics-sized people moving challenge on their hands, there’s no doubt that commuters — especially those travelling to or through the city centre — will have to do their part.
Like Canada’s goal of hockey supremacy in 2010, the quest for transportation gold will require a true team effort.