– Olympic traffic plan could leave a lasting legacy — but it will depend on us

from Rail for the Valley

By zweisystem

The editors at the Vancouver Sun have never grasped the realities of the many transit issues in Vancouver, let alone the challenges of the ‘Olympic‘ road closures.

The problem in METRO Vancouver is that transit planners have always seized the latest “flavour of the month” in transit operation from light-metro to GLT and revenue gathering such as road tolling, congestion charge, etc., but seldom if ever read the fine print. The same transit bureaucrats then create transit policies espoused by politicians, who again seldom, if ever read the fine print.

How many Vancouver area bureaucrats and politicos realize that London’s congestion charge law also provides relief, in the form of subsidies, to merchants and businesses in the congestion charge zone who can demonstrate a loss in business to the congestion fee. Anyone remember Susan Heyes, a Cambie St. merchant who had to take TransLink to court to get compensation for four years of cut-and-cover subway construction devastation?

Again we read of ‘carrot and stick’, a so 1980’s approach to transit, with the RAV/Canada Line where a Mr. Crilly and the Sun’s editorial board make the critical mistake assuming that the new metro line is indeed a carrot. The fact is, there is no proof that the RAV/Canada line has taken any cars off the road and for many transit customers, RAV has increased journey times, hardly what one can call a ‘carrot‘ when the new metro line now seems to be a rather nasty stick!

For transit to be a ‘carrot‘ it has to be seen as user friendly and convenient; convenient enough to attract the motorist from the car. The RAV/Canada Line is not perceived so and by forcing unwilling car drivers onto an extremely poorly designed metro system for the duration of the Olympics, will create just more people detesting public transit than before and taxpayers forced onto a perceived ‘transit stick’ by higher road charges and taxes, spell political annihilation to politicians supporting such measures, just like what is happening in the UK today.

The only ‘transit‘ legacy the Olympic traffic plan is that car drivers will realize how shallow and inept transit planning is in the region and how out of touch transit planners and politicians are about regional transit. The ‘Olympic’ transit plan may finally force provincial and regional politicians that years of light-metro only construction has failed and that there has to be a complete rethink how we provide and fund public transit.

The fear of political failure and a loss at election time is a wonderful ‘carrot’ to demand change from politicians.

Olympic traffic plan could leave a lasting legacy — but it will depend on us

The Vancouver Sun – October 15, 2009

The challenge facing traffic planners for the 2010 Olympic Games was relatively straightforward.

All they had to do was figure out a way to avoid gridlock while squeezing an additional 150,000 people into an area that is already congested while at the same time closing some roads and constricting others.

It’s akin to trying to pour two litres of water into a one-litre jug. So not surprisingly, the finely detailed solution they came up with recognizes that no plan will allow us to achieve the impossible. Something has to give.

That means the Olympic traffic plan will work only if businesses and residents in the Lower Mainland start doing some detailed planning of our own.

If anyone hasn’t figured this out yet, like it or not, it will not be business as usual for two months surrounding the Games and especially during the two weeks of competition.

That fact is now chiselled in stark relief with the release of the detailed traffic plan, which while disruptive in itself, counts for its success in achieving a never-before-obtained 30-per-cent reduction in the number of people bringing their cars into downtown Vancouver.

It also urges commuters, even those taking transit, to avoid travelling into the downtown area between 7 and 9 a.m. and between 2 and 7 p.m..

Some people will be able to adjust their schedules or to work from home.

But any significant shift in the timing of rush hour — or several hours, as it has become — will depend on employers getting into the spirit of the Games.

Business owners need to consider whether hours of work can be shifted, whether they can organize around four-day weeks for example, eliminating one day of commuting, and whether their employees can work effectively from home.

While the changes will be onerous for some people and businesses, we hope that they will be undertaken in the spirit of the Games as part of the excitement of being host to the world and as a potential opportunity.

There is also the opportunity to create another Olympic legacy by making permanent a switch from single-occupancy automobiles to ride-sharing, public transit, bicycling and walking to work.

Although this is not overtly part of the plan, by putting up new hurdles to driving downtown, the Olympics are acting as the kind of tool for social engineering called for last month by the regional transportation commissioner, Martin Crilly.

Crilly argued in his report on TransLink’s financial woes that simply building new transit infrastructure won’t persuade commuters to leave their cars at home.

He said carrots, such as the new Canada Line, must be accompanied by the stick of higher taxes that make driving more expensive.

The “stick” aspect of the Olympics is temporary. It will persuade more drivers to take transit.

Whether they go back to their cars after the Games are over will depend in large measure on how well TransLink performs.

In that way, TransLink shares with the rest of us an extraordinary, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in hosting the world through the Winter Olympics

As the traffic plan shows, it won’t all be fun and games. But it’s our party and as individuals, families, businesses and a community, whether we laugh or cry is up to us.

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
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