Janette Sadik-Khan, New York City’s transportation commissioner, visited Vancouver last week to showcase the progress her city has made in improving life for Big Apple commuters.
One of the radical changes she touted was this year’s transformation of several blocks of heavily travelled Broadway into, wait for it, a pedestrian zone. Guess what? Her Times Square traffic overhaul has worked.
Contrast that with Vancouver, where pedestrians are still waiting for a walking mall of their own. Some might be pinning their hopes on the downtown stretch of Granville Street better known as Granville Mall. To date, it’s been the only pedestrian mall where an evening stroll means dodging trolley buses, drug peddlers and drunken rowdies.
But with the street’s redesign entering its final stretch, there’s renewed hope Granville will become a haven for walkers. Locals will get a taste of this during the Winter Olympics, when Granville Street becomes a designated pedestrians-only zone.
Some armchair planners have speculated the Olympics plan could become permanent after the Games. And why not? It would be an inspired urban legacy.
But, as a senior official with the City of Vancouver recently told me, taking the buses off Granville is an almost certain non-starter.? Why? Because TransLink has made a major financial investment in the street’s overhaul, including bus infrastructure. Which means there’s no getting away from Vancouver’s “bowling alley for buses.”
But at least transit is at the ready if you need to make a fast escape from belligerent boozers.
It’s telling that at a time when TransLink is scaling back on passenger ferry service between the North Shore and downtown Vancouver, private enterprise is setting up new vessel crossings across Burrard Inlet.
Last week, Coastal Link Ferries received approval from West Vancouver to run a commuter boat between Ambleside Pier and Coal Harbour. The six-month pilot project, overseen by Coastal Link boss Ihab Shaker, will commence as early as November.
In unfortunate contrast, TransLink is planning on shelving one of its perfectly usable SeaBus ferries after the 2010 Olympics due to the cost of refurbishing the existing vessels.
But thanks to the bold entrepreneurial vision of Capt. Shaker, Metro Vancouver is going to get a third passenger ferry crossing after all.
And this one won’t cost taxpayers a dime.