The City of Victoria will transform Government Street into a “people-priority” area by 2022.
In a committee of the whole meeting on Thursday, counsellors heard a staff report on previous consultations with local businesses and residents, and on pilots of the streets closure.
Pilot projects were inconclusive due to poor advertisement and limited displays available during the event. The last two pilot weekends had been cancelled, leading staff to recommend deferring any decisions to open the street to pedestrians until 2020.
The staff report was followed by a separate report by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who wishes to see changes in effect by 2022, meaning studies need to start by 2020.
“I think we’ve been having the wrong conversation of cars versus no cars,” Helps said. “This isn’t meant to cut cars off, it’s meant to build on Government Street’s strengths, and limit vehicle traffic significantly so it feels your can just wander through a space made for people.”
Some options put forward by staff to make this feasible included removing curbs, and opening Government Street up to limited two-way traffic.
These changes would incorporate significant infrastructural updates, including the replacement of the street’s water main.
Coun. Geoff Young was most vocal against the idea, saying that other downtown streets could be assessed instead, such as Douglas Street.
“Something better instead of spending money working over and over again on the same five blocks of Government Street that have been working for 40 years is figuring out how to use our resources and planning resources to extend the concept to other streets, and make other streets work as well as gov street,” he said.
Coun. Jeremy Loveday was hesitant to abandon the idea of a pedestrian-only zone altogether, and added an amendment that a review would happen one year after the people-priority zone had come into play to see if traffic could be removed altogether.
Council voted to begin studies on the procedures for researching and altering Government Street by 2020 with the aim to implement changes by 2022. The decision will be ratified at city council next week.
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