Vancouver’s Olympic Transit Demonstration

The Vancouver Olympics may be over, but Jarrett Walker at Human Transit writes that the legacy for public transportation in that city could be a lasting one. During the games, the city moved nearly 1.7 million people per day on its transit system. Walker sees it as a sort of Olympic exhibition of what the future could hold:

4243413755_68203df7a2.jpgThe skyline of Vancouver. (Photo: janusz l via Flickr)

Why should a growing city with high ambitions for sustainability
host a big blockbuster like the Olympics, with all the risk and
nuisance that it entails? 

So that everyone can see exceptional
transit ridership, and exceptional volumes of pedestrians, and exceptional limitations on private car traffic, and can ask:
"What if that were normal?"  Here’s how Gordon Price put it yesterday:

"You now have a public that sees the possibility," said (SFU City Program director Gordon Price). "We just conducted the greatest controlled traffic experiment in North America."

In a growing city, a big event like the
Olympics is an imperfect but vivid glimpse of what "normal" might
be like 10, 20, 30 years in the future, when there will be that many
people moving every day. 

As Walker points out, this kind of real-world demonstration is worth a thousand policy statements or pronouncements from politicians. 

More from around the network: Car Free With Kids has some useful tips on how to raise a kid who likes to walk. The Bus Bench writes about the United States’ gender divide in cycling and transit — and why there’s a link to our nation’s lack of affordable child care. And we’re now following Ditching the Car for Forty Days, the blog of a guy who has chosen to give up his car commute for Lent.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’ll repeat my suggestion: a three day “World of New York festival” on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in early August.

    No private motor vehicles would be permitted to enter Manhattan South of 60th Street after 10 pm on Thursday, and the free bridges would be closed to traffic and open to walkers and bikers. (Perhaps the other crossings could be open, and vehicles could be allowed to use peripheral roads to pass through the area).

    The area would become a massive street and cultural fair, with different groups permitted to sponsor events on different blocks, and other places in the are holding events in sympathy. In Times Square, a large stage would be set up for major performances, but others would take place all over. There could be sports in addition to entertainment.

    A large fireworks display would be provided on Saturday, one massive parade would take place on Sunday, from one end of the area to another, with any group willing to show up in costume permitted to join. It would go on all day if needed, and on a second street if needed.

    I realize that the city has in fact proposed the opposite, for budgetary reasons — cutting parades and street fairs. But perhaps if all those paraders and street fair holders could be permitted to move their event to one weekend, it would be cheaper. And perhaps with so many people and volunteers, the NYPD overtime could be cut.

  • roger

    Vancouver’s public transit is infinitely more pleasant than new york’s – cleaner, more reliable, quieter, more convenient. It also isn’t bogged down with a bloated transit union – in fact Skytrains are driverless. Imagine that – modern technology used to improve transportation & livability, rather than pubic transit being existing as a vehicle for unecessary & overcompensated employment, early retirement packages, and embezzlement.

  • Roger, driverless metro is a great idea. What isn’t great about the older Bombardier ICTS stuff is that it is proprietary, which undermines the ability to do competitive vehicle sourcing.

    As for your comments attacking perceived “waste”, I think they are so wrong I won’t even comment further.