– 2010 Gridlock will be widespread

Vancouver Sun

By Daphne Bramham

The Inconvenience Truth

2010sign2Want to get around during the Olympics? Better start planning now

If you hate fuming in traffic, you’d better stay home or start planning now for how to get around during the Olympics.

The first road closures begin next month in Vancouver. By late January, the majority of the parking and driving restrictions will be in place. By starting early, organizers hope people will have figured it all out by the Feb. 12 opening day.

Bottom line is this: Gridlock could be widespread. That’s despite the Canada Line, Sea to Sky Highway improvements, enhanced bus service, extended SkyTrain hours and the special 2010 streetcar running from Granville Island to the Canada Line Olympic Village station.

More info on routes, traffic blockages, restricted zones, transit routes

How bad it is depends on whether Olympic organizers, the municipalities, TransLink and even companies can persuade people to stay out of their cars for the month of February.

The goal is to eliminate a minimum of one out of every three vehicle trips in the key areas, which are downtown Vancouver, Lions Gate and Second Narrows bridges, the Sea to Sky Highway and Whistler.

People are also being asked to avoid all travel in peak hours from Feb. 12 to March 1. For downtown Vancouver, that’s 7-9 a.m. and 2 to 7 p.m. For the Sea to Sky Highway, the northbound peak is from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The 30-per-cent reduction alone is an incredibly ambitious goal. Right now, only 11 per cent of commuters in Metro Vancouver use transit.

What makes it especially ambitious is that — unlike Beijing, where dictators simply made it illegal to drive on certain days — this is voluntary.

So if you don’t leave your car behind, you’d better hope that at least one of your two next-door neighbours does.

The goal may be unrealistic, given some people’s animosity toward the Olympics.

But some of the rumoured and feared alternatives were much more dire.

None of the bridges will have a designated Olympic lane. Olympic vehicles will use the queue-jumper lane on the Lions Gate and there will be a fast-track entrance on to the Second Narrows.

No special vehicle permits are needed to enter the downtown area.

There is a designated lane for Olympic-only traffic on Cambie. There are none on Burrard, Oak or Granville. However, there will be no stopping on those major north-south connectors.

All of the SkyTrain stations will be open. Earlier, the Integrated Security Unit had suggested that the Canada Line stop at First Avenue — Olympic Village Station — might be closed.

Residential street closures are limited to a couple of main thoroughfares downtown for pedestrian corridors and on some streets adjacent to Pacific Coliseum, BC Place, GM Place and Hillcrest.

Getting to Whistler, however, is at least as challenging as was feared.

Even if you have tickets to events at Cypress and Whistler, you must book and pay for a ticket on the Olympic buses. Nov. 24 is the starting date for making reservations. Procrastinators will not only have fewer seats to choose from, the bus tickets will cost more after Jan. 4. The round-trip ticket to Whistler is $25 and $12 to Cypress.

Two public parking lots will be open at Whistler for day skiers. But it will be virtually impossible to drive to Whistler for a day’s skiing, even though 90 per cent of the runs will be open.

Only Olympic vehicles, residents with permits and people with booked accommodation will be allowed north of Squamish between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. from Feb. 11 to 28.

And if you want to talk about chaos, don’t think the organizers haven’t already run a whole lot of appalling scenarios.

Record snowfall? The City of Vancouver has purchased a whole lot of snow removal equipment — some of which will be sold after the Games — and is prepared for the first time to truck snow off streets and out of town.

Highway snow-removal plans have been beefed up as has the equipment inventory.

All of the city and Olympic vehicles have snow tires.

A slide or horrific accident that blocks the Sea to Sky Highway? BC Ferries will send ships to the Darrell Bay dock with priority given to Olympic vehicles.

A suicide on SkyTrain tracks? TransLink has plans to lessen the disruption.

A possible jumper on a bridge? Emergency responders have brushed up on the protocols for talking them down.

It will not be business as usual during the Games.

It may mean working flex hours, working from home, rescheduling appointments, carpooling with your neighbours or co-workers or learning to take transit.

And there’s yet another possibility.

Downtown will be alive with visitors, street performers, live (and free) entertainment sites. Bars and restaurants will be open longer hours.

Maybe you could just plan to enjoy it.

dbramham@vancouversun.com

HOW TO GET AROUND DURING THE WINTER GAMES

It will take longer to travel anywhere in Metro Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Organizers have an ambitious plan to ease the commuter crush. News, map, analysis: A4-A7, C3

Challenge

1. Get 30% of us to leave our cars at home

2. Transport 58,000 Olympic spectators to Whistler daily

3. Businesses hurt by new parking bans on 650 city blocks

4. Move 75,000 Olympic athletes and officials around region

5. Keep venues and athletes safe

Challenge: Make it easier for pedestrians to move around Solution: XX Car-free roads linking x and y…

Solution

1. More transit buses, trains, longer hours

2. Dedicated Olympic bus network

3. Temporary truck routes and relaxation of noise bylaw

4. Dedicated Olympic lanes on key roads and highways

5. Nine major routes closed, bubble zones around venues

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