Downtown Redevelopment: ONE WAY = NO WAY

by David Biltek

Quite simply: 100 avenue being ONE WAY is disastrous for downtown.

In the mid 1970’s, City Council approved a Transportation Master Plan that called for a “One way couplet” system to ease traffic flow from the expanding residential neighbourhoods in the east side of the City to the industrial park on the west side where many people worked. The couplet would see 101 avenue as one way westbound (never did happen) , and 99 avenue one way east bound (was introduced early and is still in place). However it would take some time to buy land, do the design work, and finance the project so Council was advised and decided to designate 100 Avenue as ONE WAY eastbound as a TEMPORARY measure (sort of like Income Taxes).

Every fives since the City Council has approved an update to the Transportation Master Plan which has included the one way couplet plan, and every year the city administration following the plan, purchased land to make it happen, or designed new roadways and did much else to advance the plan.

In 2010 – 2011 they even developed detailed plans for the one way couplets completion in 2012 – 2014; designs were shared with the Downtown Association and detailed lighting patterns were developed. However in the summer of 2012, the Council considered a new report from the Masters of Transportation Planning (sic) which said in essence that making 101 avenue one way would not be sufficient to handle the traffic and that Council should consider other alternatives but 100 Avenue should be made one way permanently. Council thusly decided and this summer the new traffic lights were installed. And those new light standards they installed! dull unfinished grey and in no way complimentary to the bright blue colour scheme the Downtown Association and the City selected and implemented some time ago.

Sometimes Council’s actions speak louder and are more revealing than their plans.

So why do I feel this is NOT good for downtown?

Every report, plan, strategy, enhancement, etc, etc ad nauseum that has been done for the City over the last 40 years has called for a pedestrian friendly, slow traffic precinct along 100 avenue that would be the centre for retail in the downtown area.  However and this is my concern: ONE WAY STREETS are INCOMPATIBLE to a pedestrian friendly retail precinct.

One way streets are designed to move traffic, usually a significant amount to traffic at speed from one area to another. Street level retail areas are best served with two way slower traffic.

I do not know of any successful retail shopping precinct that exists on a MAJOR ONE WAY ARTERIAL Road, like 100 Avenue. All of the most successful street level, outdoor shopping areas are on two way streets: Whyte Avenue in Edmonton, Kensington and 17th Avenues in Calgary, Robson Street in Vancouver, Bloor and Yonge streets in Toronto….and farther afield: Fifth Avenue in New York among many others.

Now there are some exceptions: Water Street in Gastown, Vancouver is a one way street, but it is NOT a major arterial street, it is short and it does NOT have parking on the street and it does not take traffic from one major residential area to a major employment area. The same is true with the very short section of Government street in Victoria. and In Victoria, Douglas Street and Oak bay, both two way streets are more successful and desirable locations.

I am not suggesting that one way streets and lack of development is a causal relationship, but it is interesting to note that along most one way streets one finds little retail. Especially unique, shopping oriented retail, maybe destination retail.

So long as 100 Avenue is one way it will, in my opinion be a detriment to redeveloping downtown Grande Prairie.

And What do you think?

More on Downtown Development:

Rory Tarant addresses what he refers to as ” The elephant in the Room”, The Crystal Centre which although not specifically about  Downtown development, it does bear on the issue. The Elephant in the Room

and Daryl White at GPVOTERS.CA has done a great backgrounder on Downtown Development in which he explains the current  Downtown Enhancement Plan and  what it contains. He also outlines some of the issues about Crystal Centre.  Click her for details: Downtown Development:Some Background


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