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Vancouver councillor calls for Robson Square to be reopened to vehicle traffic

A film crew set up on location at Vancouver's Robson Square. Simon Little / CKNW

A Vancouver city councillor says she wants to see Robson Square reopened to vehicle traffic.

Vancouver City Council voted nearly two years ago to permanently close the strip of Robson Street between Howe and Hornby Streets to traffic, with the goal of creating a public square in the heart of the city.

LISTEN: Vancouver city councillor calls for Robson Square to be reopened to traffic
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The strip connects the Vancouver Art Gallery with the Vancouver Law Courts, creating an 121,000-square-metre public space.

At the time, the city said more pedestrians than drivers passed through the block, and creating the square would “encourage year-round programming.”

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The area on the Robson side of the Art Gallery is a popular site for protest rallies, and has been used for occasional public events such as the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. It has also been a popular location for film crews.

But Non-Partisan Association Councillor Melissa De Genova wants to see the move reversed, with the road reopened to buses and bikes to start — and possibly to cars in the future.

Speaking on CKNW’s The Lynda Steele Show, De Genova argued the public square has become a magnet for protesters, and is actually driving families away.

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“More and more I’m hearing from residents and families that they don’t feel safe walking down there because the number of activists, such as the cannabis sellers, are using this for their own means and reasons.”

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Vancouver police moved in January to clear the square of pot vendors, who had transformed the area into a de facto open-air marijuana market.

Occasional tents have popped back up since then, and De Genova said directing enforcement against the vendors has come at significant cost to the city.

LISTEN: Your calls — What should happen to Robson Square?

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Beyond the issue of how the square is being used, De Genova said the closure of that segment of Robson Street has snarled traffic and created problems for TransLink bus routes, which she said disproportionately affects seniors and people with disabilities.

“I question whether it should be shut down because of the fact that it stopped bus service going through from the West End to another side of the city,” she said.

De Genova said the area could still be closed to traffic for special events that obtain city permits, and argues the change would actually make the area more family-friendly.

Council will vote on De Genova’s motion Tuesday, March 13.

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