It’s no surprise that Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson wants to capitalize on the recently concluded and hugely successful Winter Games. His opportunity to leverage the Olympics to garner support for major city initiatives is significant, but fleeting. And he has wisely made transportation a cornerstone of his post-Games civic policy push, citing “long-term sustainable transportation legacies.”
There is no doubt that Vancouver’s Olympic transportation plan was a winner. “Cities often run campaigns over many years to achieve these kinds of results — what we have achieved in such a short time is remarkable,” he said in a release. “Our next task is to encourage people to stay out of their cars when the Games end, and continue to choose better ways of getting around.”
I give Robertson full marks for recognizing a historic opportunity. There will never — ever — be an opportunity like this again to build off of the success and goodwill arising from this massive transportation experiment. One Metro reader told me recently, “If TransLink were to maintain the quality of service that they’ve been running for the past couple of weeks, people might actually take it seriously as a transportation option.”
Vancouver city planning director Brent Toderian has asked aloud whether this was in fact North America’s largest traffic trial ever. “The massive amounts of data, and the general change in perception and attitudes from this temporary transformation, may end up being the most powerful legacy from these Olympics,” he argued at planetizen.com. “I strongly believe nothing will ever be the same in how we perceive traffic and movement in our city after this.”
Even major real estate developers agree. If Expo 86’s legacy was about developing land, they say, then the post-Olympics era is about density and transit.
Former Vancouver city councillor Gordon Price recently wrote on his Price Tags blog that “the city’s (Olympics) plan — 30 per cent reduction in traffic, 50 per cent reduction in capacity to downtown, no venue parking — has worked spectacularly well.” But building off that requires the backing of Gordon Campbell. “As premier, it will be up to him if there is to be any real legacy from the transportation success of the Olympic experience,” he wrote. “Otherwise, the only debate we’ll be having is how much we’re cutting back.”
Perhaps Robertson’s only obstacle to an Olympics transit legacy is, somewhat fittingly, another politician.
– Derek Moscato is a writer with a focus on urban issues, transportation, architecture and economics; email@example.com.