Here’s something to keep you commenting while I’m away, based on a response that Guest, PT’s best balloon-pricker, placed on this post from the Daily Scot: Gentle Density in Portland:
If you zoom out on the Portland map, the continuous line of larger buildings (retail commercial, presumably) on those east–west “smaller” arterials is quite striking.
By comparison, Vancouver has much smaller pockets of retail strips, even along the arterials, and generally not parallel to each other for great length. i.e. Main Street, Cambie Village, and South Granville may be on the same latitude, but Oak is devoid of a commercial strip, and only Main Street’s commercial zone extends any great length.
Dare I say that these east-west Portland streets can afford to remain small because of the existence of the I-84 freeway, so long-distance travellers from the east will not need to traverse the neighbourhood on surface streets. i.e. these roads do not “need” to be stroads because of the existence of the freeway, so they can remain smaller and more neighbourly.
Click to enlarge.
Scot and others decry the heavy traffic on our old streetcar arterials like Main, or the lack of pedestrianized streets like Robson, or the concern about the Viaducts coming down without lessening the impact on Prior. And the counter argument is that none of that is possible because those streets have to perform the contradictory functions of local street and through arterial, both for car traffic and transit.
In other words, they have to be stroads.
So is Guest’s implication right: would Vancouver have more options if we had built a freeway like I-84 to handle the through traffic so that now we could create more local mixed-use streets like Division?
This is not just an academic exercise. The Citizens Assembly in Grandview has called for a tunnel under their neighbourhood to handle the volumes currently on East 1st. If, in a reorganization of TransLink, the Major Road Network was turned over to the Province, then the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure could, for instance, come up with a plan like this:
- Absorb the median to the east of Nanaimo to widen East 1st
- Build underpasses under the cross arterials
- Dig a tunnel from Victoria to Clark
- Redesign a route across the False Creek Flats to serve downtown and the new hospital.
Voila, a de-facto freeway to handle the cross-city traffic that would connect to and from Highway 1.
Arterials like Hastings and Prior could then become neighbourhood service streets, narrowed and densified to create more livable, bikeable, mixed-use environments.
Click to enlarge.
And once they’ve got the boring machine going, how about other connectors to the south and north? Then Main, Cambie, Fraser and others could be our new Division Streets.
So maybe we should build that freeway that never was. After all, we’re not funding new transit.