Vancouver: The Olympics on Transit, Week 1 in Review

I told you I thought Vancouver would be lucky.  From Vancouver reader Meredith Botta:

We have had spectacular weather over the past few days, cold enough at night to preserve the snow (and to make new snow) at the outdoor Olympic venues, and warm, sunny and clear in the day.

Trust me, you have to have lived through a Vancouver winter to understand how miraculous this is.   Gordon Price even caught some cherries blooming, a good month ahead of schedule.  Meredith goes on:

Crowdsonrobson The feeling downtown amongst the crowds is unbelievable …. lots of smiles punctuating the rainbow of nationalities everywhere.  I even bumped into a quartet of singing Russian women in a crowded Canada Line train the other day.  TransLink announced today that they hit a new record with 1.7 million trips made in one day, yesterday.  Ridership is about evenly split between rail and buses, with SkyTrain exceeding 600,000 / day for the first time in its history.  I hope the politicians are paying attention.

For a taste of Olympic thrills and frustrations from a transit operator’s point of view, see TransLink’s in-house blog The Buzzer.  For the view of a Vancouver urbanist who’s not afraid to call failure when he sees it, watch Gordon Price.  Both, not surprisingly, are doing frequent and lively posts during the games.

Much of the spectacle in the city, such as the pic above, is the result of strategic street “openings”, which are exactly what motorists would call “closures.”  Streets have been closed to cars so that they can be open to masses of people.

Vancouver has long been willing to do this for special occasions.  For a few days in July each year, for example, the entire West End district is closed to motor vehicles during the annual fireworks, so that 100,000 or so people can flow through them on foot.  (I did a short meditation on this phenomenon here.)

One thing these event-related “openings” do is arouse interest in making them permanent.  Unfortunately, the one permanent “opening” that seems to be most discussed is the one that affects transit rather than cars.  Gordon Price raised the question of permanently “opening” Granville Mall to pedestrians, displacing the electric trolleybuses that are intended to operate there but are currently on detour.  The thread on that post, including a reality-check from yours truly, is worth a look.

More soon.

2 Responses to Vancouver: The Olympics on Transit, Week 1 in Review

  1. Richard February 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm #

    It has been really great wondering around Granville and Robson during the Spring Olympics.
    A few points. Granville really never seemed to work that well for buses and for pedestrians. People are allowed to cross the street anywhere which meant the busses always had to go rather slow to avoid hitting them. The shear number of buses meant it did not work that well for pedestrians. People often complained about the “wall of buses”.
    Before the “detour”, which has been around 4 years long, there were concerns that being re-routed to Seymour and Howe would impact bus operations but this seems to be working fine now. Access to Granville and City Centre Stations are fine from Seymour but they could be improved from Howe. Perhaps routes through the underground malls could be improved.
    Putting buses back on Granville would mean getting the bus lanes on Howe and Seymour back to automobiles, so it is not like leaving the buses on Seymour and Howe would be a step backwards.
    The take away from all this is that it is really hard to make the best decisions before actually trying something. The buses off Granville and the pedestrianization of the street has worked very well so far. After the success during the Olympics, it would really be hard to go back.
    To illustrate this, I did not realize how much better it is walking in the middle of Granville Street as opposed to on the sidewalks until I tried it during the Olympics. Vancouver has worked hard to preserve the view corridors so people can see the mountains. Only issue is that along streets like Granville, the mountains are really only visible from the middle of the street. If there are buses, only the driver really has a good view and he/she can’t really enjoy it while avoiding pedestrians dashing across the street. If Granville remains a ped street, everyone can enjoy the spectacular view of the mountains and get their iconic pictures of the city. The middle of the street also gets more sun too.
    Here are some photos of Granville illustrating the above:

  2. Paul March 1, 2010 at 3:31 am #

    As someone who has lived in Vancouver my entire life. That one week of sunny weather we got was quite unusual. While it does rain a lot here. The biggest thing is that it may not be raining but it is cloudy.
    During the fireworks in the past. One thing I liked doing was crowd surfing. Basically as the huge exodus of people is heading up a street stand on the side and it will look like a river in front of you. Now try to walk across to the other side to a certain point. What you find is you have to walk against the crowd to counter act the crowd pushing you the other way.
    The Olympics felt different in that it was just a huge crowd of people but with no sense of where it was going. It was standing still or groups would be moving here or there.