For the last seven days almost every neighbhour of mine commented about how New Westminster had become a different community. I wrote last week about how the closure of the Pattullo Bridge meant 80,000 commuters who normally cut through our neighbourhood every day had all but evaporated.
Last week, I swear there was tumbleweed gently rolling along McBride Boulevard at the height of rush hour. Even the low rumble of traffic noise and low flying "eye-in-the-sky" helicopters which normally help awaken New Westminsterites every morning had disappeared. Not surprisingly, the bridge closure completely transformed traffic patterns in this city - for the better.
The quick repair of the Pattullo Bridge may be welcomed by those daily commuters who now have a much easier trek to their final destination, but the joy won't be universally shared.
I somehow doubt those 80,000 commuters will be welcomed by every resident in New Westminster, who for one week got to see what their community could be like without daily traffic gridlock.
A trip to take the kids to soccer or visit a restaurant that would normally take 15 minutes, was cut down to five. All of the speed bumps that had been installed to slow down people cutting through our side streets were made redundant. The whole scene was positively serene.
While I'm happy drivers' lives south of the Fraser River can return back to normal with the re-opening of the bridge, and that they can navigate our streets and bridges once again, I must say that I sure enjoyed not having those 80,000 cars, the majority with a lone occupant, winding through our side-streets every day.
For a week at least, I got to experience what New Westminster would be like if more of us committed to rapid transit, car shared, and my part of Metro Vancouver was more of a hub than an off-ramp for Fraser Valley drivers. And it felt good.