DENIS WALSH SEEMS TO BE on the Seymour Street one lane warpath, and seems to be putting this together as a High School 101 course on the consequences of faulty city design ideas.
As usual a City councillor is running away on a pet project that will cost lots, create huge problems and need undoing at some point. Sound familiar?
Yes, traffic quietening is an admirable goal generally, and many towns and cities have effectively gotten it done, usually by finding a place to put the traffic and quietening its access to the places you don’t want traffic, but in this overly tight downtown, at this location, with the limitations at hand, simply shutting down traffic access entirely is a nonstarter. The key to the above is ‘finding a place to put the traffic’.
It is negligent to think that if you disable the ability to get through town … traffic will just go away, it will not. City council has jabbered on about this for years, and it is politically expedient to talk about a nice quiet downtown for pedestrians and residents. The problem is, you can’t do this at the expense of the system that drove the growth of commerce, transport and economics that created this upscale, downtown quiet living desire, to begin with.
I’m all over looking at options, but changing BOTH Seymour and Lansdowne to two ways … or changing one without improving the other FOR traffic, is definitely a river raft of mistakes.
To put it simply, the volume of vehicular traffic using Seymour and Lansdown have few other options if today’s traffic flow went the way of the Dodo, and they are not good options;
1 – Over the Halston and either over the Red Bridge or Hwy #5,
2 – Around by way of the Summit connector and up or down Columbia.
Why won’t these work?
North Shore traffic going downtown and onward to the growing commercial and residential centre that Valleyview has become, and to the highways beyond … and in the reverse direction … in the real world means that both commuting cars and commercial vehicles will not detour either up Summit or over the Halston. They just won’t do it. Wishing will not make it so.
Traffic will not sit bottlenecked on Seymour, it will spread out.
The first thing that will happen is the alleys and St. Paul and Battle streets will become the go to detour for drivers. This will be car and commercial traffic that will drive very quickly down these streets to try to avoid the traffic snarl on Seymour. This is not preferable; it has just moved traffic to a wider swath of traffic, on streets that are now quiet. Traffic will not sit bottlenecked on Seymour, it will spread out.
What’s next? Traffic lights down St. Paul?
As well, Columbia is already at its limit for traffic considering the added population, business and commerce on the hill. If you add all the North Shore traffic coming from the connector trying to get downtown, it will only add to it as well as provide more traffic for TRU students to dodge as they jaywalk across that road. Wasn’t a fence going in there?
Anyway … the real point here;
The problem is that with the historic design of downtown, there is just not enough space to move traffic AND shut down both corridors, or shut down one without fixing the other for traffic. This need to move traffic will not go away and simply wishing it so … and doing it anyway … is foolhardy and incongruent with reality.
That doesn’t mean there are no options. At this point we are left with difficult and expensive options, simply because this wasn’t done in the ’70s, when it should have been.
OK … fine … one lane each way Seymour, with trees, coffee shops, farmers market and a PAC … and whatever other pedestrian based business can grow there, no one will disagree with that on its own. It’s in the middle of downtown itself; it’s the right way to go.
Now for the hard part; tear up Lansdowne from 1st to 9th, those big expensive brick sidewalks are completely removed and given back to the road.
Small businesses on the south side between 3rd and 5th and north side from 2nd to 3rd, can be persuaded to move elsewhere, buildings can come down, Lansdown Shopping Centre loses a line of parking as does the Delta, and a wide two-lane each way with full turn out and merge lanes put in … in other words a real thoroughfare … a bypass … with pedestrian and vehicle underpasses for Lansdowne mall from numbered streets … and remove all the traffic lights. A complete reconfiguration from a city street, to a traffic zone … a big dig and replace.
Sounds extreme, but if you want quiet downtown pedestrian friendly shopping streets from Victoria to St. Paul and above, you have to separate the needed traffic flow completely from it.
Again, It is farcical to think that if you stop traffic, it will just go away, it will not.
Keep in mind, Kamloops is not done growing, one day this will be the only option.
The second preferred option will be much, much more expensive … buy CP’s entire yard property, do a big dig to deep-tunnel the train from Valleyview through downtown, give them the huge mostly unused yard on Mission Flats that’s storing pipe right now, and then put in a proper road system through on the downtown yard land.
This won’t happen, as CP will want more money than God to sell it, and it would take literally a billion$ to build it, and tunnels don’t work so well in flood zones.
That said, this is a permanent solution that will last into the very long term and forever ensures no one downtown from Victoria and above is disrupted, as a matter of fact downtown will boom in every way desirable.
There is no quick fix by creating a two-direction Seymour and planting trees. You cannot just end traffic when there are no other good options, you can only move traffic to a more preferred place. If you don’t, it will wander where you really don’t want it, all on its own.
If City councillors want a pet project, do a big one and quit breaking the bigger problems we already have into a plethora of small problems that we will need to fix again … once your voted out.
David Johnson is a Kamloops resident, community volunteer and self described maven of all things Canadian.