September 3, 2019

Lon LaClaire on Challenges, Cost/Benefits, and ‘Aha’ Moments for Transportation in Vancouver

It was 2009, Vancouver was about to become the largest metro region to host a winter Olympic Games, and the city faced a challenge of similarly grandiose proportions — how to accommodate a 30% increase in downtown transportation trips alongside a 30% reduction in road network capacity, thanks to Games-related operations.

For Lon LaClaire, a transportation planning engineer at that fraught moment in the city’s history, it was an experiment that would prove to be the ultimate litmus test of the city’s potential to lead North America in the prioritization of efficient, effective, and (still) decidedly unsexy transportation modes — walk, bike, transit.

It happened of course (turns out snow was the issue — go figure), and that experiment’s success paved the way for the past 10 years of a transportation paradigm shift in policy and investments that is indeed now recognized across the continent, if not the world. And it’s due in no small part to LaClaire’s leadership on the City’s transportation engineering team, not to mention a certain je ne sais quoi….translation: “How is this guy so calm?!?

Today, he’s Director of Transportation with the City; if you’re part of Twitter’s #vanpoli urban wonk mob, you heard Cambie Report’s interview with LaClaire a month ago. And if you’re one of the many visitors to Vancouver for next week’s 25th Annual Rail~Volution Conference (considered by some as the Olympics of urban planning), Gord gets LaClaire to chip out a few new gems.

Such as his ‘what if?’ moment about Vancouver’s transportation history, to complement a plethora of our real-life ‘aha‘ moments. Or his explanation for why, over the last 25 years, our streets are moving less traffic, even while population and commuting trips has grown. Better yet — LaClair’s compelling reason why anyone concerned about transportation in their backyard should run, not walk, to VanConnect to report street issues and concerns. Most worrisome? His prediction of the problem many of us will face on opening day of the Broadway Skytrain extension in 2025.

All that, plus the secrets of grid resilience, the transit hub where City’s motto comes to life, and what to do with unused asphalt. Only the best for our 50th episode…

Read more »