Gastown Pedestrian Zone Pilot

Add a Comment by Rebecca Bollwitt

Part of Gastown is going car free this summer, following the direction of City Council to turn Water Street into a pedestrian zone for a pilot project throughout July and August.

Part of Gastown Goes Car Free This Summer

Gastown Pedestrian Zone Pilot

During the pedestrian zone pilot, sections of Water Street will be closed to vehicles to allow for public seating, community activations, expanded patios, merchandise displays, art installations, special events and active transportation.

In preparation, City staff will continue to work closely with area residents and businesses to support their access needs and reduce impacts. Throughout the pilot, local access points for vehicles will be maintained at designated sections along Water Street. 

To ensure businesses can easily and creatively use the additional street space, the City is offering flexible design options and simplified permitting processes for expanded patios, merchandise displays and other potential business uses.  

Where Will This Be

During the Pedestrian Zone Pilot, sections of Water Street and Maple Tree Square will be closed to vehicles to allow visitors a safe and enjoyable environment to soak up the neighbourhood, take in performances, shop, people watch and dine in the heart of Gastown.  

In designated “Car-Free” blocks, vehicle access will be restricted. However, local access will be maintained on all “Car-Light” blocks to provide access to the area for deliveries, visitors, and customers. 

gatown pedestrian zone pilot

Upcoming Repairs & Traffic Changes 

In advance of the pilot, this spring the City will be making urgent repairs to Maple Tree Square from March until June, 2024. Maple Tree Square will be closed to vehicles during repairs, resulting in traffic changes and impacts throughout Gastown. More information on the upcoming repairs and associated traffic changes will be shared in the coming weeks through a technical briefing. Previous repairs to the 1970s-era cobblestone took place in 2012.

Gastown Public Spaces Plan

The Water Street Pedestrian Zone Pilot is the first initiative to come out of the Gastown Public Spaces Plan, which is exploring the future of public spaces in Gastown.

  • Establish a vibrant, people-focused Gastown with enhanced gathering places, streets, and laneways to support a range of activities.
  • Pedestrianize Water Street seasonally or year-round, starting with a pilot in summer 2024.
  • Improve the street network to support a pedestrianized Water St, including walking, cycling, transit, and vehicle connections and consideration of Cordova as a 2-way street.
  • Advance Reconciliation with the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and the səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations and support their visibility on their lands.
  • Evolve and deepen the unique heritage feel of the area, including improved street materials and amenities.
  • Identify phased project timing and funding.

Feedback from the pilot, and future public engagement on the Gastown Public Spaces Plan, will inform a long-term vision for pedestrianizing Water Street. Staff will report back to Council in fall 2024 on the pilot outcomes.  

Update May 10, 2024: This week, Council voted to waive fees for the new and expanded patios and merchandise displays participating in the pedestrian zone pilot and contribute $20,000 towards restarting the Gastown Business Improvement Society’s parking initiative, which will offer visitors three hours of free parking once a week during the pilot. 

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