I am specifically suggesting a conversion of Seymour Street between First and Sixth Avenues, a possible longer view reconfiguration of Third Avenue and maybe Lansdowne Street between First and Sixth Avenues, if it is determined as being beneficial to our Downtown.
AS YOU MAY BE NOW AWARE, I am actively advocating to have a serious discussion on the possibility of converting some of our one-way streets to two-way usage, in the process of developing our future Downtown Plan, that will provide our direction and vision for the next 20-30 years.
Municipalities all over North America are reviewing long-term one-way street networks in favour of two-way streets in prime downtown retail areas. I give you my unsolicited opinions and suggestions below as some light reading, to go with your weekend ribs.
I strongly feel that First Avenue should remain as a one-way arterial street. Moving high volumes of traffic efficiently around the west border of our Downtown core, running from Lansdowne Street south to Columbia Street helps keep traffic away from the DT core and minimize congestion. I am advocating we direct all pass-thru arterial traffic to the periphery or around the borders defining the Downtown core.
I am certainly not a qualified traffic engineer, however over the years I have had numerous challenging conversations on how best to address our Downtown vibrancy and current one-way transportation network. Myself and others find some of our Downtown one-way streets to be restrictive, problematic and out-dated.
With over 40 years since converting from two-way to one-way streets, it is time we questioned if they are our highest and best use, in today’s new world. Below, are some suggestions based on strong opinions, heated debates and bold opinions flavoured with some common sense.
1- Reconfiguring Seymour Street between First and Sixth Avenues to two-way traffic is critical, not only the future growth of our DT business core, but this is also the key to a more pedestrian friendly and vibrant Downtown. If the new Community Arts development, located at Fourth Avenue and Seymour St. becomes a reality, we need to consider much higher pedestrian traffic on Seymour Street along with safety concerns, new traffic patterns and greater connectivity.
2- The current enabling and encouragement of pass-thru vehicle traffic, using Third Avenue as an arterial road to get to North Shore, results in higher speeds and congestion in our DT core and splits our Downtown retail district in half, this current situation needs to be reviewed by traffic engineers. A suggestion is simply to make Third Avenue a two-way or boldly consider doing a major reconfiguration, such as a reversal of one-way, to help funnel traffic volumes coming out of Lorne Street, Riverside/Pioneer Park traffic along with high volume of vehicle traffic coming out of large Sandman Centre events, all at the same time. There have been many, many changes and development since the current one-way network was configured some 40 years ago. Moving traffic up to Columbia Street more efficiently would help in dispersing traffic quickly, out of our congested City core. An added bonus of two-way conversion of Third Avenue or a reverse one-way would help move much higher volumes of traffic now heading to Sahali/Aberdeen, including providing easier access to our major regional health centre RIH, for emergency vehicles and non-frequent visitors.
3- A conversion of Lansdowne Street to two-way is questionable. With much higher volumes of traffic expected in the future, it would be a good idea to at least consider developing a ring road type alternative around our Downtown retail core, to help funnel expected future higher volumes of traffic going thru Downtown to NS or just wanting to pass through our Downtown core to other destinations. If higher traffic is expected, as we grow, then it may be more efficient to leave Lansdowne as a one-way arterial as our DT north border arterial street, to move high volumes of traffic west.
4- It is important to leave First Avenue as is. Designated as a one-way arterial roadway, starting from Lansdowne Street to help funnel vehicles coming from West Seymour (NS), Lorne Street (Red Bridge) and Riverside/ Pioneer Parks or Sandman Centre events. First Avenue is critical as a bypass of Downtown core, to move higher volumes of traffic travelling to other destinations, efficiently around the western edge our Downtown core.
5- Using Sixth Avenue as the arterial pass-thru in place of Third Avenue would complete a proper ring road around the borders of our Downtown business/residential/entertainment core, rather than having high traffic arterial one-way streets severing portions of our Downtown and restricting walkability. With improving Sixth Avenue connectivity with Lansdowne Street …to First Avenue …to Columbia Street, we would have a natural ring road channeling traffic around our Downtown core, rather than cutting through it. There would be an ability to easily enter and exit our Downtown core, whether it be for business, residents, or cultural and entertainment reasons. One-way streets would no longer confine growth of retail businesses or interfere with the vibrancy, walkability and natural growth of our Downtown core.
We need “bold leadership” to look ahead at the future growth of our Downtown retail core, higher densification and predictable higher volumes of traffic. With the long-term planning for Downtown core and neighbourhoods currently taking place with the Downtown Planning Advisory Committee (DTAC), along with the first draft of the Downtown Transportation Choices (DTC) strategy discussion next week, I believe now is the critical time to have a serious conversation regarding the future of our current one-way transportation network, in the heart of our City.
Denis Walsh is a Kamloops City councillor.