Vote Open recommends transit malls to improve traffic flow if Portage, Main barriers come down

Winnipeg Transit bus on Graham Avenue. File / Global News

Traffic delays around Portage and Main are the biggest concern around bringing down the barriers at Winnipeg’s most iconic intersection, and the team behind opening it says transit malls may be a solution.

The Coalition for Portage & Main said Monday city council should consider a transit mall along Fort Street up through Notre Dame Avenue, to King Street and William Avenue.

They also recommend turning King and Garry streets back to two-way traffic instead of the current one-way.

The proposed transit mall would funnel buses off Main Street. The Coalition for Portage & Main

The goal will be to significantly reduce bus traffic on Main Street near Portage Avenue.

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“We know the 2016 traffic study says reopening Portage and Main will have minimal impact on traffic, but this campaign has shown that a large number of Winnipeggers are frustrated over downtown traffic today,” said coalition spokesperson Adam Dooley in a statement sent to media.

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“Instead of accepting the status quo, our city’s leaders should be looking for better ways to do things. If we’re able to pull most or all buses off Main Street, that will be a large step towards making all traffic move faster through Portage and Main.”

The idea was first proposed by former Mayor Glen Murray, who cited the success of the transit mall on Graham Avenue to reduce bus traffic on Portage Avenue. The transit mall has attracted significant development, including the Manitoba Hydro building and True North Square.

“Leaving Portage and Main as is, is guaranteed to achieve two dismal outcomes in the long run,” said Murray.

“First traffic congestion will just get worse as the current design funnels all traffic — transit, active transportation and automobiles — into one channel. And the current design does not allow for a reasonable redesign to improve traffic flow.”

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Business owners chime in on Portage and Main debate

The group says Fort Street is currently underutilized and has few storefronts and the transit mall would make better use of the street.

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“This will require planning and consultation,” said Murray. “The point is that there are ways to make downtown better for cars, buses, pedestrians and for downtown businesses.”

To support their vision, The Coalition for Portage & Main is having a free concert and entertainment series on Saturday on all four corners of Portage and Main. Bands including Royal Canoe, Mahogany Frog, JP Hoe, Sweet Alibi, and others along with local DJs make up the lineup.

There will also be an open mic, craft beer, local food, dancing, art and poetry.

Portage and Main Fact Sheet by on Scribd

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