Improving Downtown is Great, But Only the Beginning

According to The Province, Vancouver has just adopted an extremely progressive transportation plan aimed at getting people around more efficiently:

The city’s 2040 Transportation Plan, which passed Wednesday, will transform Vancouver by shrinking car use while widening sidewalks and increasing cycling networks and green spaces, planners say.

The plan includes aggressive targets of making at least two-thirds of trips on foot, bike or transit by 2040, and eliminating all traffic fatalities.

The article also characterizes the plan as the most progressive in North America.

Provo is not the most progressive city in North America, but it too is increasing bike infrastructure, adding sidewalks, etc. It’s getting commuter rail next month and, eventually, bus rapid transit. In other words, it’s changing in many of the same ways as Vancouver, albeit much more slowly and on a smaller scale.

Construction on Center Street has opened up the opportunity to install better sidewalks and other infrastructure. But of course, that’s just part of the puzzle.

In other words, Vancouver offers a model of how to implement these changes.

The lesson is twofold: first, Provo’s improvements need to be coupled with the kinds Vancouver is undertaking. Adding sidewalks without adding density makes no sense. Improving walkability without beefing up and adequately marketing public transit doesn’t pay off. Bike lanes need to be safe, intelligently designed, and practical.

These sorts of things are going on in Vancouver and they demonstrate that cities need to take a holistic approach to becoming more livable.

Second, and relatedly, even great improvements may not be enough. Vancouver’s ex-chief planner (and frequently quoted expert on this blog)  Brent Toderian notes that in at least one spot the city is still too car-centric. Toderian also points out that the plan may not satisfy anyone:

 But it may not go far enough to meet the city’s ambition of being the “greenest city” in the world by 2020.

“The irony of building a plan like this is, it can be too provocative for local citizens, and not significant enough to meet the city’s goals,” he said.

Provo similarly may struggle with continued car-centricity, controversial plans, and funding. Another challenge facing Provo is wide-scale improvement. Center Street is about to get even better, but the more problematic areas in downtown will still be, well, problematic.

Like any city chasing a brighter future Provo has a tough path ahead. But if recent announcements suggest it’s moving in the right direction, Vancouver offers an example of how to proceed.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Improving Downtown is Great, But Only the Beginning

  1. Pingback: Walkability and Bikes Benefit Businesses | (pro(vo)cation)

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