Return of the Two-Way Street to Downtown Victoria
Unless you are looking for it most people will never even notice Cormorant Street. Sitting in two one-block portions on either side of Blanshard Street, parallel and just to the north of Pandora Avenue. It is a bit of a sad street, before Centennial Square it was a much more major thoroughfare that continued on to Store Street. In the mid-2000's, the eastern portion was home to Victoria's first needle exchange, which created quite the street scene, something unrivalled downtown since then. That block is not helped being shadowed by the Richard Blanshard building which has one of the least friendly ground floors downtown.
Cormorant has its little shining spots though, there is the small selection of shops closer to Douglas Street, next to that is the Corazon, David Chard's first residential building downtown. Near Amelia Street there are some funky old houses and apartment blocks. So there are bits there to work with and now with the two new office buildings at 1515 Douglas and 780 Pandora, Cormorant has an opportunity to come out of hiding a bit.
With the new office buildings and the traffic that will be moving out of the parking garages there, the City has decided to return that block of Cormorant to two-way traffic. This is the first time that I can remember this happening on any street in Victoria. Hopefully the City is going to look at what happens here and see if there are opportunities to start doing this elsewhere downtown.
As it is now, Victoria has five major streets, and a couple of minor streets that are for one-way traffic. While two of the streets are already seeing large changes with the implementation of the new protected bike lanes, both Yates and Johnson remain high capacity auto-oriented thoroughfares. It is unfortunate that the city was so focused on the bike plan that they did not consider what other opportunities there were with such a large scale change to the streets. (The evidence for that is not just the lack of a discussion of changing Pandora and Fort into two-way streets, but also the fact that even while digging up sidewalks, the power lines still hang above the road)
There have been countless studies in recent years on the benefits of bi-directional traffic flow over one-way streets in improving the pedestrian realm in particular. Some studies even point to this being better for car traffic. The major reason however as to why this kind of change improves the environment for pedestrians is because cars slow down. It also increases access to businesses as they can be approached by vehicles in more than one direction. Still there is a lot of opposition to changing the ways that vehicles move through the city as can be seen with the opposition to the new bike lanes.
Still I think that especially as Harris Green builds up in particular, there is reason to have another look at changing the format of the streets. If we want Yates to become a pleasant shopping street it will need to have less of a feel of being next to a fast paced thoroughfare.
I am looking forward to seeing some businesses take their places along Cormorant Street and I would expect that its quiet and slow paced traffic will certainly help it.
Which street would you like to see turned back to bi-directional in Victoria?