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51 Days of Very Large Traffic Challenges

Look at any map of the planned traffic restrictions during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games on the City of Vancouver’s website and you’ll see a number of roads that will be closed completely because of Olympic venues and their attendant security concerns. Other major routes will have dedicated lanes devoted to “Olympic traffic” only.

On the Olympic routes, one lane each way will be reserved for official Olympic traffic (IOC, athletes, etc.). What this means is that roads like Hastings Street will be down to one lane each direction for the rest of us. To make matters vastly more complex, a number of downtown streets will be reserved mostly for pedestrians so that they can “share in the energy of thousands of locals and visitors from around the world."

It is becoming clear that the Olympic transportation plans are going to cause significant disruptions to the normal movements of people and services. What most perhaps don’t realize is just how massive and long lasting these disruptions are going to be.

In order of severity for motorists, here is what Vancouver roads will look like from two weeks before the Games start (January 29, 2010) until the Paralympics have come and gone (March 21st). (Expect for the latter that some traffic headaches may remain for a few days after the Paralympics as the Integrated Security Unit finishes up).

For what follows, it remains unclear if in the period between the end of the Olympics and the beginning of the Paralympics (March 1 to 11th) things will revert to normal traffic patterns, but this seems increasingly unlikely.

51 days of this:

Security-based complete road closures:
-Expo and Pacific Boulevards, that is the entire route along the north side of False Creek;
-Georgia and Dunsmir Viaducts that connect the areas west of Main St. to downtown;
-Canada Place and Waterfront Road, or basically all of the north side of Gastown;
-Midlothian Avenue between Dinmont and Ontario Streets specifically those areas around Hillcrest Stadium and Riley Park;
-Renfrew Street from Hastings Street to McGill Street, the former a main north-south route off of the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge (2nd Narrows);
-2nd Avenue from Quebec Street to the Cambie Street Bridge which borders the Athletes’ Village;
-Quebec Street from Terminal to Second Avenue.

Olympic lane traffic:
-Burrard Street, just across the bridge to Cordova in downtown;
-Seymour Street and Granville routes to the Granville Street Bridge to Cordova;
-Howe Street to Cordova;
-Pender/Beatty Street to Cordova;
-Pender Street/Cambie Bridge to 59th Avenue;
-Broadway from Arbutus Street to Commercial Drive;
-Georgia Street, Richards Street to the Stanley Park causeway leading to the Lion’s Gate Bridge (and remember, Lion’s Gate will have dedicated Olympic lanes as well).
-Hastings Street from Richards Street to Boundary Road.

Pedestrian corridors:
-Granville Street between Helmcken and Hastings;
-Robson Street between Jervis and Beatty;
-Hamilton/Mainland corridor between David Lam Park and Georgia Street;
-Beatty Street from Smithe to Dunsmuir.

Translating this from the City documents into real impacts, here is the skinny outlined in a few simple, but realistic scenarios:

Scenario 1: You work downtown and you are used to driving to work from your residence in Marpole. Here is what happens: If you go down one of the main north-south routes, Granville or Burrard, for example, the minute you cross either bridge, you are hemmed in by the Olympic lanes and pedestrian “corridors”. The only way out of the mess is to take Pacific Avenue to the west and hope to find parking somewhere in the residential areas along or north of Sunset Beach.

Since most of these are resident parking only, you are in for some frustration. Or, you could try to go the east off the bridges, but you’d rapidly run into the road blocks near BC Place. Bottom line, you aren’t driving into downtown, and if you do your chances of finding parking are small to none.

Scenario 2:
You work at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) and drive in from East Vancouver (or, God help you if you are trying to get there from the North Shore; more about this below). Your usual routes are either along Powell Street, 2nd Avenue, Hastings Street, Broadway, 12th Street, Prince Edward Avenue, or 41st Street. The Powell route will be a parking lot as motorists try to avoid Hastings and its Olympic lanes. 2nd will be completely closed from Quebec to the Cambie Bridge since the Village is a locked down security zone. Broadway will be like Hastings and all the spill-over traffic will have to shift to the southern routes to get away from these restricted routes.

On top of this, to get to VGH you still have to cross the bottleneck at Cambie. If you have to go further west, you hit bottlenecks at Granville and Burrard. Bottom line: Your east-west journey isn’t going to be either short or fun. (And you thought the construction of the RAV line was a pain in the butt…)

Scenario 3: You have the good fortune (normally) to live on the lovely North Shore. Never mind the above scenarios above that you will have to cope with in due course. Your first challenge is to get over the big water separating your home from Vancouver.

Good luck. Lion’s Gate will be chaos incarnate with the Olympic lanes, pushing everyone west of Londale to go for the Second Narrows Bridge. Anyone who has experienced a “police incident” (usually someone threatening to jump off one of the bridges), or even something as simple as a lane closure due to a stalled vehicle, knows what happens next: Traffic backs up for miles.

Now imagine that the backup goes both ways. Now further imagine that of all the cars on the Second Narrows idling way, one or more stall.

Love your car
Bottom line: You’d better really love living in your car because you will be doing so for a long time. In reality, if you live on the North Shore, you aren’t going to work in Vancouver unless you can knit a number of hours of extra transit time out of your busy day…and both ways.

Scenario 4, etc.:
Endless variations on all of the above (including perhaps major snowfalls), all with the same punch line: You are screwed.

So there it is in a nutshell:
51 days of traffic nightmares.. Taking public transit will avoid the problem of where to park, but won’t do much for the bottlenecks and the time it will take to get somewhere.

It’s “our time to shine." Enjoy!

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