Vancouver city council plans pilot project to test car-free Gastown for pedestrians

·1 min read

Vancouver city council plans to make the historic Gastown neighbourhood more pedestrian-friendly by eliminating car traffic on its main thoroughfare.

Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung says she will introduce a motion during a meeting on May 9 for a "people-focused Gastown," which includes creating a pilot project which will shut down Water Street to car traffic on weekends as early as this summer.

The plan is supported by Vancouver mayor Ken Sim and the city's ABC-dominated council and also includes immediate patching repairs to Water Street's battered cobblestone surfaces and a study into changing the Cordova Street from one-way to two-way traffic.

Kirby-Yung says the purpose of the no-car pilot program is to "help inform some of the longer-term planning" in Gastown, adding that similar tests on Granville Street have yielded "positive" results.

Gastown is one of Vancouver's top tourist neighbourhoods, but it has suffered in recent years from the shutdown of cruise ship traffic during the pandemic and the spread of homelessness and social crisis in neighbouring Downtown Eastside.

Gastown Business Improvement Society executive director Walley Wargolet says the neighbourhood's business climate is relatively healthy despite the challenges, with the vacancy rate hovering around 7 per cent.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2023.

The Canadian Press