At their Wednesday meeting, executive committee will be taking a look at the first phase of the Downtown Transportation Study. In short, it concludes that car traffic should be allowed on the plaza, but only in one direction and not all the way through. You can see the traffic flow pattern in the map at left. (Click to embiggen.)

You’ll recall that this whole schlmozzle with the plaza — the “we’ll open it to traffic, we’ll never open it to traffic, maybe we’ll open it to traffic, maybe not, what do we do? I know, hire a consultant and get them to tell us” back and forth that went down last fall — was precipitated from, among other things, fears that opening the 12th Ave plaza to vehicular traffic would be too confusing for the simpletons who drive downtown.

“Simpletons, Paul? Really?”

Hey, that’s not me talking. That’s your city administration and a few of the folk on council who reckon y’all can’t drive worth a damn and will find a two-way street that has fewer than six lanes too stressful to navigate.

Or, rather, that’s me paraphrasing — liberally — from some of what was said last year. Whatever. Moving on.

Yeah. So they were worried the plaza would be too confusing for drivers. And therefore, naturally, of all the options they had to choose from, city staff and their consultants picked the most confusing option imaginable. They’re not making 12th Ave a one-way street. They’re making it into two one-way streets. It’s a good thing there’s that map graphic above because I have trouble explaining it with words. The city is going to have to hire one hell of a street-sign arrow artist to make sense of this.

And, am I the only one to notice the plastic planter lobby’s fingerprints are all over this plan?

Really, I have to admire the audacity of the consultants. I never would have guessed this is where things would end up. It’s like Solomon came down and saw Regina’s citizens arguing over the plaza and declared that the only way to resolve the quarrel would be to slice the street in twain.

Now personally, if you can’t tell already, I’m not a fan of their judgement. And here’s why: Back during the consultation phase of the downtown plan, we heard over and over again about how one-way streets mean death for a downtown — all they do is hurry traffic through and away from the part of the city where you want them to linger. Plus, they reduce the number of route options for drivers who do want to get around to things downtown. That’s why the very first move in implementing the downtown plan was to change a few streets from one-way to two-way.

And now, if staff has their way, we’ll be bringing one of those one-way streets back. Can you see why I find this recommendation a tad perplexing?

I’m actually kind of hoping that it’ll turn out that this whole report is some kind of test. And if we extend the Solomon analogy, seeing as I’m in favour of opening the plaza to two-way traffic because I don’t want the downtown to die! does that make me the compassionate one and therefore I get to keep the baby? Or the plaza? Or whatever?

Anyway. Now’s the time when we look at funny bits in the report….

The traffic and parking impacts associated with the preferred option are expected to be minimal as the space is not designed to accommodate a high volume of traffic effectively…. (pg 5)

The space isn’t designed to accommodate high volumes of traffic, eh? You know, last fall — mere days before staff made their surprise recommendation to keep the plaza closed — I was interviewing people at city hall and being assured that the plaza could totally handle whatever Regina drivers could throw at it. It was designed to be driven on. But ever since then, the place is sounding more and more fragile by the day.

Really, I think the best thing we can do is cover the whole plaza in that thick, squeaky plastic my Aunt Bessie had on the furniture in her living room. And we definitely shouldn’t let the kids play in there. That way, nothing will get scuffed.*

Keeping much of the City Square plaza as vehicle-free reinforces the message that active modes of transportation are viable and important options in Regina and may assist in influencing people to choose these modes. This, in turn, assists in reducing the City’s carbon footprint. (pg 4)

Except the only active mode of transportation you can use on the plaza is your feet. Skateboards, roller blades and bicycles are prohibited, remember?

As groups using the space become aware of the ability to program the southern area of City Square plaza without restricting traffic, it is also expected to reduce the need for road closures and the costs associated with that process.

Waitwhat? You mean you can program the southern area of the plaza without restricting traffic? But we were told last year that the other reason they wanted to keep the plaza closed to traffic — I mean, other than that Regina drivers are simpletons — is because they needed the space for programming. But if we can just use the southern area for art shows, busker festivals, ice sculpture competitions, mad science conventions, black magic lessons and nosebleed races, then we can have an active, happy plaza and have car traffic on it at the same time. You’d almost think the thing was designed that way.

Oh wait. It was.

In fact, the main reason we have that much-malinged half-moon scooped out of Victoria Park is because the plaza needed to have a space for programming and pedestrian plaza-ness even when cars were driving through the north part of it.

In other words, if the plaza had been planned as a pedestrian-only space back before the shovels had been stuck in the ground then there would have been no need to dig up a chunk of the park.

Okay. That’s it. It’s past one in the morning and I’m out of steam and about to pass the 1,000 word mark. And I haven’t gotten to all the other stuff going on this week. And there’s lots. Like a big land sale to Habitat for Humanity that I have issues with. And a really confusing report about potentially purchasing land from the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation. And a bunch of stuff about pesticide use by the city. But that will have to wait because I have to go to sleep. Sorry.

If you want to read ahead, you can check out the city’s much-much-much-improved committee agenda page right here. Nice work city hall website people! (For reals. Not for sarcastics.) I have issues with the way the new pdfs are being put together but those funky search boxes and meeting-type drop-down menus are top notch!

* After a re-read, I’m thinking that Aidan cracked a version of that “cover the plaza in plastic” joke on the podcast at some point and now it’s springing back into my head like it’s my own invention. If that’s the case, my apologies. No comedy theft intended, Aidan. We should really record another episode this week. E-mail me.