Truck News


Delivering During Winter Games To Be An Olympic-Sized Challenge (February 01, 2010)

VANCOUVER, B.C. - Things may be winding down so far as preparation for Vancouver's 2010 Olympic Winter Games is concerned, but they're heating up for truckers tasked with keeping the city's commerce c...

VANCOUVER, B.C. –Things may be winding down so far as preparation for Vancouver’s 2010 Olympic Winter Games is concerned, but they’re heating up for truckers tasked with keeping the city’s commerce chugging during the event.

According to B.C. Trucking Association policy analyst Greg Kolesniak, the city and VANOC (the Olympic Organizing Committee) have done their homework well -and consulted widely -in trying to ensure the games come off without a hitch while still allowing city life and commerce to continue as smoothly as possible.

It wasn’t always that way. Kolesniak says the organizers were focused on commuters at the beginning of the consultation process, and the BCTA wanted to ensure the transportation industry’s concerns were taken into account as well. Fortunately, “They were really good about drawing everyone in and provided a lot of opportunities for interested stakeholders like us to provide comments,” Kolesniak says, “and some of our concerns were worked into the Olympic transportation plan.”

Not surprisingly, the BCTA wanted more emphasis put onto the physical movement of goods, not only for the duration of the Winter Olympic Games themselves but also for the Paralympic Games that will follow. Kolesniak says the BCTA provided eight or nine major recommendations to help address their concerns, including one calling for the establishment of temporary truck routes.

And so it is being done. Kolesniak says three major truck corridors have been added to the downtown core for the duration: Nelson and Smithe Streets (which are new to trucks), and Hastings, whose truck traffic usually ends at Main street but which for the Games is being extended all the way to Burrard.

Kolesniak says adding the temporary truck routes was a compromise on the part of the city after it was pointed out that its specially-designated Olympic travel lanes -which are like HOV lanes but for Olympic-accredited vehicles only and in effect 24 hours a day -just happen to be along major truck routes. The BCTA argued that, since capacity would be restricted where the efficient movement of goods was vital, the industry should get some accommodation to make up for the loss.

The BCTA, and other stakeholders, also asked that the entire Olympic transportation plan be put into effect well in advance of the games, “to give people a chance to warm up to it,” Kolesniak says. The organizers agreed; the tweaked truck traffic thoroughfares are due to go into effect on Feb. 1 and last until March 21, book-ending both sets of Winter Games.

The city also agreed to relax its noise control bylaws so companies would have the option of operating on a 24-hour basis, Kolesniak says, “to basically give them the opportunity, perhaps even the incentive, to move their operations off peak hours.”

This means that, for example, trucking companies can make deliveries into the downtown core between midnight and 6 a.m. -if their customers cooperate.

On its Vancouver 2010 Web site, the City of Vancouver says it would prefer that if such overnight deliveries aren’t possible, they be finished before noon, leaving the rest of the day for the crush of humanity to take over the area -as it surely will.

Another BCTA recommendation was to create a registry for businesses willing to accept overnight deliveries.

“The fundamental problem,” Kolesniak says, “was that, while the trucking company might be more than happy to deliver between 12 and 6 a.m., that doesn’t mean either the receiving end or the place where they pick up is going to be open.”

The registry is intended to help solve that problem by helping trucking companies identify customers who would be willing to operate off peak hours, and to plan accordingly.

The concept may work well for “garden variety” pick-ups and deliveries in the downtown area, but locations at or near the actual Games-related sites are another matter entirely. Vancouver 2010 has decreed that businesses located close to official sites -such as the Main Media Centre, B.C. Place, the Whistler Medals Plaza, Whistler Creekside and the Whistler Media Centre -require special protocols to ensure access, including specified times and special permits.

To further facilitate the efficient flow of traffic, the City of Vancouver is also removing on-street parking from some thoroughfares downtown, including in areas designated currently as loading zones.

So far so good but, to steal a phrase, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, which means the possibility for Games gridlock is still very real. And with an estimated 160,000 visitors per day passing through the area, Kolesniak says, “something has to give. It will be a challenging time, but hopefully it’s something that everyone can manage.”

A lot of the success or failure of the plan depends on how well the message gets out to those who’ll be affected by it.

“We have been informing our members for quite some time that they should be expecting increased congestion in the city of Vancouver and especially the downtown core,” Kolesniak says. “There’s simply no way around it. I think they’ve done a pretty good job overall planning it; we just have to see if the plan actually works.”

Then there’s the issue of all those construction truckers who’ve been busy working on Olympic venues for the past few years. Now that their work is finished, is there going to be a spike in such truckers being out of work?

“That’s tough to say,” Kolesniak admits. “Things are slow, generally speaking, but if the current economic situation improves there should be jobs available.” He cites as encouraging the fact that the housing market has picked up in Vancouver, with prices rising by 20% compared to 2008. “There’s definitely been an improvement,” he says, “and so you’d think that housing starts and new construction are also going to take off.”

If so, that should mean more jobs. But given the challenges of the marketplace right now, that could be a big “if.”

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