The “Portage and Main” Solution. You’re Welcome, Winnipeg.

Hey Winnipeg! I have solved one of your glaring street problems. I can fix the Portage and Main intersection. For those who do not know about the infamous intersection, Portage and Main is a pedestrian-free zone. Those who do travel by foot are blocked by barricades, forced to detour and take a dull underground walkway to go across the street. Calgary’s mayor, Nenshi, described the underground corridor as a “pedestrian-hostile environment”, after getting lost in the passage in 2016. However, there are talks of re-opening the downtown intersection to pedestrians (probably with the hopes of not losing any more Canadian mayors in the walkway). Winnipeg, I know you are worried about the safety of the children crossing the street and traffic delays, but hear me out and consider a few ideas.  

Opening up the Portage and Main intersection is a new opportunity for growth in Winnipeg. Creating cities that are pedestrian and cyclist friendly can do so much more than improving economic growth, it can also create a positive image of a sustainable city.  As you may be aware, pedestrians and cyclists are becoming cool again. Leo DiCaprio made the environment trendy, and all of the coolest people are reducing carbon emissions through active transport.  Even for the pedestrians that don’t care about the environment, walking has great health benefits! So that’s why I am proposing this idea; a truly pedestrian option, while still keeping the car as king!

The solution is to incorporate a steel-rail rollercoaster overtop of the intersection. Maybe even expand it to the suburbs? Why bother with a ground-level LRT when you can have a high-speed roller coaster with loop-de-loops? It may sound like a silly idea now, but if you build it, people will use it. I’m even thinking of calling it the Winnipeg Steel Vengeance. If stations are placed in locations accessible to households, I guarantee you will see more people choosing to use the Winnipeg Steel Vengeance over driving.

Here’s a rendering of what I imagine the Winnipeg Steel Vengeance will look like:

The Winnipeg Steel Vengeance  

The Winnipeg Steel Vengeance  

Maybe my solution is a bit outlandish, and the real debate about Portage and Main is regarding walking; however, there are broader implications that will result from the final decision of Portage and Main. Will Winnipeg fight for progressive advancements or fall victim to the status quo.

By refusing to reopen the roadway to pedestrians, the conservative viewpoint within Winnipeg will limit the cities potential of achieving a new image and sense of vibrancy, making a city that refuses to open up to the new generation of “the creative class.” It is well-known the creative class values the urban core. They seek a habitat that emits an enhanced quality of life with exciting streets. This new wave of workers will not willingly come to a city where people do not feel welcome or safe to simply cross a street. Without the support of the creative class and the technology-based industry they fuel, cities are vulnerable to becoming desolate and irrelevant in an increasingly knowledge-based economy. 

Re-creating cities to retrofit new industries and to improve livability within the downtown core is a scheme that cities across North America are adapting towards. This concept of becoming a competitive city does come at the expense of new and redesigned infrastructure spanning from energy efficient buildings to bike lanes. However, these costs are necessary to attract new workers and corporations. The result of not staying competitive will result in the harsh reality of a dead city. 

It is time to let go of stuffy, conservative attitudes and embrace changes that enhance livability within Canadian cities. These changes may shake up the norm Canadians have become accustomed to, but it is essential to see these changes as stepping stones as a means to becoming a thriving city. So Winnipeg, maybe it’s time you take my idea of the Winnipeg Steel Vengeance. 

-Coralie Volker