Portage and Main
Submitted by: Lee Haber
This intersection of the most famous streets in Winnipeg is completed blockaded by concrete barriers that force pedestrians into a dark underground concourse.
The biggest knock on Lombard Square is that the intersection was blockaded to prevent pedestrians from crossing at street level in order to speed up car traffic. Pedestrians are then funneled underground in an unimaginative walkway network. What is even worse is that a legally binding agreement was signed in which the blockades can only be removed if all four corner business owners unanimously agree to remove them. The agreement expires in 2016. The place is a dead zone, puts cars before people and certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Shame.
Former Mayor Glen Murray had a design competition to revitalize the intersection and remove the barriers. Unfortunately, this idea was shelved by current Mayor Sam Katz. There are now plans to implement parts of the winning design such as towers of light to the underground concourse. Unfortunately, removing the barriers seems to be the last thing on their minds.
I think that it is essential that the barriers are removed. The place needs to be reclaimed by the people. I would also suggest that there be diagonal crosswalks like in Tokyo where all traffic stops. Also, adding a streetcar would slow traffic even further while also adding some charm. If traffic moves slowly, people feel safer.
There also needs to be more shops and amenities at ground level at the four corners. Right now there is nothing but an empty lobby. For instance, the CanWest Global Tower has a windscreen which could be a good place for a cafe. Right now it is empty and the place has little life. There could also be more hot dog stands and other food vendors.
As for the underground concourse, it would still be open and could be used as a way of accessing an underground rapid transit station. The only time people have actually been on the intersection has been for parades and street parties which there need to be more of.
What Puts Lombard Square in the Hall of Shame?
Pedestrians cannot even cross the intersection because of the concrete barricades. Instead they are forced to go underground in an ugly and unimaginative underground concourse. The entrances are ugly and dark making people feel unsafe.
The concrete barricades at all four corners do little to make people feel comfortable. Also, the dark and dilapidated entrances to the underground concourse do little to make people feel safe. There is quite a bit of graffiti and vandalism. Because pedestrians are barricaded from crossing the street, the vehicle does dominate.
Lombard Square is an office ghetto. Since very few people live downtown, this area is deserted after 5:00 pm. There are no benches and the place is a traffic funnel, as opposed to a meeting of Winnipeg's most famous streets. Occasionally there may be a hot dog stand at one of the corners in the summer.
The only thing you see at Portage and Main is people walking to get out of there. It is not a friendly place to hang around and there aren't any amenities.