Thursday, 8 October 2009

Can Winnipeggers Scramble, Too ?

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the opening of the underground concourse that saw Portage and Main shielded behind four-foot tall concrete barriers.

Zuken leads protesters across Portage and Main, 1979
A famous past-time of Winnipeggers is to engage in the debate over whether we should ever open the intersection again, (or prior to the 2018 expiry of the concourse deal). Proponents argue that it's an intersection - people should be allowed to cross. Opponents say that, well, this is Winnipeg - of course we can't open it: think of the chaos, the confusion, the inhumanity.

Portage and Main Today
Many cities in the world are able to manage pedestrians at intersections much larger than Portage and Main. One of the ways in which they do so is through the "Barnes' Dance" at scramble intersections.

The most famous is probably Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, reputed to be one of the busiest intersections in the world as each day 2.5 to 3 million pedestrians come and go from the adjacent subway station. (An interesting aside, they are experimenting with
capturing the foot power of those people to provide electricity for some of the station's lighting).

Cool Video: Shibuya Crossing in Action
This year it was announced that Oxford Circus in London will undergo upgrades to make it a scramble crossing as well. The subway station there handles about 250,000 people per day.

Closer to home, Toronto has experimented with a scramble intersection at
Yonge and Dundas which sees 100,000 pedestrians crossing per day. Trade didn't stop, mass carnage did not ensue and this week Toronto's experiment will expand to include Yonge and Bloor . Other intersections could be added in future.

Yonge and Dundas, Toronto Star
Winnipeg came the closest it ever has to opening Portage and Main back in 2007. As per the legal agreement signed at the outset of the concourse's construction, all property owners, (there are now 6), at the intersection must agree. The only hold-out at the time was Oxford Developments. In August 2007 Crown Realty Partners acquired 100% interest in Winnipeg Square and the Commodity Exchange Tower.


The Man Who Created the Corner of Portage and Main
Manitoba Historical Society

Towards the provision of ultimate pedestrian priority: guidelines for installation of scramble pedestrian signals at intersections
S Ahuja, S Bose, T van Vuren, Mott MacDonald, UK; D Ragland, University of California Berkley, 2008

Steps Towards a Walkable City
City of Toronto, September 2007

Barriers at Portage and Main not only block pedestrians, they block renewal
Winnipeg Free Press

The Great Winnipeg Dream
David Walker (An on-line excerpt "Winnipeg and Trizec: Giving It All Away" can be found here in the The Second City Book)

Oxford Circus X Crossing Opens BBC Nov 2, '09 (also a webcam)

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