– Interview: VANOC transportion manager

BC Business

Peter Severinson

Fitting thousands more travellers onto our already-strained roads 
will be one of the Olympics 
organizers’ biggest challenges 
during the upcoming Games

Irene Kerr, of all the Olympics officials, has perhaps the most thankless task. Kerr is the executive in charge of VANOC’s transportation and logistics team, overseeing a transportation system that’s expected to move a mind-blowing number of people. An estimated 5,500 athletes and Olympics officials, 12,000 media personnel and more than 50,000 workers will all need to travel between approximately 80 Olympic sites. The system will also have to handle 60,000 to 135,000 spectators each day (the population of Victoria is about 80,000, just for context), with more than 20,000 of those daily spectators shuttling between the Lower Mainland and venues at Cypress Mountain and Whistler (that’s a bit more than Whistler’s entire population).

And let’s not forget the equipment that needs to be hauled between VANOC’s 500,000-square-foot warehouse and the various sites, including more than one million square feet of tenting (twice the area offered by Vanouver’s combined convention centres), which will be set up for front- and back-of-house operations at the venues, and more than 44,000 chairs (more than twice the number of seats at GM Place Stadium), which will be used for such things as outfitting the Media Centre. Were you to line up VANOC’s fleet end to end, the sedans, pickup trucks, coach buses and various other vehicles would stretch from YVR to the entrance of Stanley Park, Kerr estimates.

“If you look at the size of the Olympics,” Kerr says, “it’s been said that it is the equivalent to hosting three Superbowls per day for 17 days.”

Another challenge is the downtown peninsula, which is in a curious double bind. Planners expect 30 per cent more trips into downtown compared to a regular weekday, and, on top of that, half of the roadways leading into downtown from the east – the non-bridge routes – will be closed as part of the stadium-area security plan.

Olympic lanes For those drivers worried about having to share a lane with official Olympic traffic during the Games, don’t bother; it won’t be an option. Eight main arteries will have lanes exclusively reserved for certified Olympic vehicles and public transit, including Hastings Street in and out of downtown, a criss-cross of downtown roadways, as well as generous chunks of Broadway and Cambie Street south of the downtown peninsula.

Downtown pedestrian zones Thirty-­two downtown blocks will be turned into a pedestrian zone from noon to midnight during the Games, which is hoped to keep other important vehicle routes free of revellers. Noise restrictions are being adjusted to allow downtown businesses to get their deliveries after midnight.

Expanded transit Smooth transportation around the Vancouver venues depends on people choosing transit over cars. Translink is counting on some big permanent system improvements to handle the unprecedented number of travellers, including the new Canada Line as well as 48 new SkyTrain cars, a third SeaBus and 200 new buses added since 2007. Temporary services for the Games include extra West Coast Express trips, 180 more buses and a streetcar service between the Canada Line and Granville Island.

Coach buses VANOC is mobilizing a veritable armada of coach buses to bring spectators up and down the mountains during the Games. Some 3,000 bus drivers and about 1,000 buses are being brought in from across North America.

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