I can across an interesting post in Gordon Price’s Price Tags‘ archives that looks at a decision Vancouver made in the 1960s, or rather chose NOT to make.
There are few singular decisions made in any North American city that have had such a dramatic impact of the future of a city, especially when the decision was not to do something. This is exactly what happened in the 1960’s, when Project 200—a plan to build a freeway system through downtown—was disbanded.
While I would love to give of city forefathers credit for their prescience, or for the public outrage at the time being the deciding factor, I can’t. The reason that Vancouver didn’t follow so many other North American cities wasn’t due to civic leadership or even neighborhood opposition, but rather intergovernmental bickering over who would foot the bill. According to heritage expert John Atkin:
the deciding factor was probably the bickering between the federal and provincial governments over who would pay for the freeway system. “The feds finally said, ‘Forget it. We’re taking our money and going home,'” says Atkin. “So they left, and the whole Project 200 collapsed because of that. They walked away.
What if an agreement had been reached, and the highway had gone ahead? Downtown—especially Gastown—would have ben a VERY different place, as seen in these renderings.
Thankfully, every city council since has affirmed that there will be no new roads to serve traffic coming into the city. As a result, incoming traffic to the downtown core has dropped by approximately 20% over the past decade. This trend is expected to continue as both population and transit service within Vancouver increase.