Big Ideas 2010: Your ideas

Collage by Elling Lien

Build a St. John’s Solarium

Leslie Vryenhoek
Writer and communications consultant

The St. John’s Solarium—Imagine: it’s mid-May, the 26th straight day of drizzle and fog after a long, dismal winter. You can’t bear to turn on the television or answer the phone and find out how the rest of the country is soaking up the warm spring sun, so you toss some summer duds in a bag, grab the sunscreen and head out. No, you’re not going to the airport—you’re just spending yet another day (after all, you have an annual pass) in the world’s only indoor tropical island, an underground mecca (change rooms on the second floor let you leave your boots behind!) with high-above sunlamps to offer a Vitamin D dose and take the edge off your pasty. Real tropical plants, constantly refreshed air (heated, of course, geothermally), a wave pool for the kids, street vendors, outdoor cafes… At night, the sun goes down, the moon and stars come out and local musicians take the stage at the patio bars.

God I wish somebody would build it. Sure, it would take massive private/public investment, but imagine the tourism potential—and the mental health rewards.


Move the provincial capital to the West Coast

Liam Herringshaw
Professor, MUN Dept. of Earth Sciences

It took me a while to notice, but Newfoundland faces the wrong way.

St. John’s harbour looks east, to Europe, to Britain, to the colonial powers, the fishermen and the settlers. No one returns its gaze. Influx comes from the airport or the Trans-Canada Highway.

Out west, behind Newfoundland’s back, Canada carries on regardless. With a new capital city on the Gulf of St Lawrence, St. John’s could return to its life as a harbour town – the jelly bean houses and Signal Hill bringing in the tourists, and the choppers and trawlers shipping out the petroleum workers. Its tedious western sprawl would be wiped happily off the face of the Earth.

A capital in western Newfoundland would connect the province to its country. Rather than a 600 kilometer drive from Port-aux-Basques to the Avalon, people could be off the ferry and into the city in no time. The other Atlantic provinces would suddenly be an island-hop away.

There would be no need for the preposterous food miles required to shift groceries all the way across the island, no need for the trans-Canada highway to be potholed into oblivion by a steady stream of juggernauts.

Memorial University could switch its campuses around, making Wilfred Grenfell College the main focus of attention and leaving St John’s as the satellite centre. For marine biology, geology, geography and other earth and life sciences, the west coast is far more suited to study than the barren, boggy terrain of the Avalon.

Then there’s the weather. The west coast gets warmer, drier summers and reliably snowy winters. The skiing around Marble Mountain could be a genuine centre of snow sports.


Build a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) System

Walter Parsons,

To make public transit attractive to St. John’s residents, we should build a BRT (bus rapid transit) system that would form the core of a redesigned Metrobus. Specific arterial transit routes should be identified and their roadways upgraded to enable the features of a rapid transit network. Like similar systems in Halifax and Saskatoon, these routes would include transit-priority traffic signals, bus stations with improved shelters at major destinations, access to park-and-ride facilities, less stops than traditional bus routes, and frequent continuous service that would allow users to use the rapid bus system without the need to consult a schedule (service intervals of ten minutes or less). Less frequent neighbourhood routes could connect to the BRT system at major stations – perhaps using smaller vehicles. The BRT busway could feature extended service hours and could even be designed to allow for the possibility to upgrade to light rail as the city grows.

Part of the BRT network could be built along the Columbus Drive-Prince Philip parkway to link St. John’s east to west, serving the Village and Avalon Malls, the Health Sciences complex, Memorial University, Confederation Building, and the College of the North Atlantic along the way. Bus stations (at intersections with transit-priority traffic lights) would need to be added to the parkway to allow buses to quickly merge in and out of traffic. Major thoroughfares into the downtown would also need to be upgraded with bus-only lanes where required. The new system, if implemented properly, could make a major difference to traffic and parking problems in the city core.


Other events Monday, Aug 20

Blood Donor Clinic, Delta Hotel 1-888-2-donate Book Club, For Grown-Ups, Granny Bates Council Meeting: Refer to Council Agenda on website for meeting agenda items (posted Friday afternoon), Public is welcome, 4:30pm, Council Chambers, 4th floor City Hall Food Not Bombs: Healthy meals free of charge, 1:30pm, Bannerman Park NL Citizens for Peace Rally: Contest the […]

15 August 2007

  1. Tim Rast · August 15, 2007

    I completely agree with Liam Herringshaw’s proposal to move the capital to the west coast. All of his arguments are spot on – especially the point about the weather. As National Geographic pointed out, the Avalon Peninsula is a great place to *visit*, but everyone who spent any time on the Island, from the Basques and Vikings to the Palaeoeskimos and Maritime Archaic Indians, recognized that the west coast was the place to *live*. Everybody, except the current inhabitants, that is.

  2. Mike H · August 15, 2007

    Over my dead body.

  3. Liam Herringshaw · August 15, 2007

    Thanks Tim, I’m glad archaeology is with me! I don’t for one moment think it will happen, but I think there are a lot of good reasons for changing the orientation of Newfoundland:

  4. Jordan · August 15, 2007

    I have also thought that Corner Brook would make a better capital city for the province. They have 3 large harbours, one for Marine Atlantic, one for industrial purposes and one to be the commercial downtown area. As well as being closer to the rest of Canada we’d be closer to Labrador, a fixed link could be economical. The area would need to be built very dense though to save the scenery.

    A Big Idea I have thought about in the past is to put a large St. John’s sign up on the Southside Hills like the Hollywood sign.

  5. Jon Kioti · August 15, 2007

    The logical reasons are there for a west coast capital, but the recent (500 year) history needed the safe harbour close to the motherland more.

    A better solution is to simply build all houses and buildings on large castor wheels. Not only would that allow us to relocate the capital as society’s requirements change, but it would allow historic areas and industrial parks to grow and shrink as needed. Farmland could be protected with the natural berm of rock one usually finds at the borders of such areas, as that would be difficult to wheel over.

    Good luck with that. :)

  6. Anonymous · August 15, 2007

    “A Big Idea I have thought about in the past is to put a large St. John’s sign up on the Southside Hills like the Hollywood sign.”

    Now THAT I can agree with! It would be really fucking cool, and wouldn’t cost very much money.

  7. ummm · August 15, 2007

    okay sure – build all the infrastructure, figure out how to populate the place so it even qualifies as a city, then get an airport perhaps??? (deer lake is so pitiful it doesn’t even count!) and then ensure that the ferry actually works and it might be given a chance.

    or just ignore all the historical evidence that shows how St. John’s is a million times better then any place on the west coast.

    Minus Marble and Gros Morne you have nothing.

  8. Jordan · August 15, 2007

    Corner Brook is a city, as are most places with a population of over 20,000. As well there is lots of instances where aiports aren’t actually located in the major city of a region so Deer Lake is a fine place to have the airport. Canadian air traffic into Deer Lake Airport saw one of the largest increases out of all airports worldwide this year.

    While Corner Brook will obviously never become the capital, and wouldn’t have really made sense to be the capital years ago, it does make a lot of sense now. Hopefully more baymen move into the Corner Brook area and grow the population.

  9. Frank Blackwood · August 15, 2007

    I disagree, leave the capital where it is with Signal Hill, Water street, the Irish Pub, Brazil Square,and the waterfront intact with its sense of heritage and well being that touches our inner soul with renewed spark when we come back home. You all may get tired of it, but we grew up with it, it’s in our mind and bones like the salt sea!

    Frank Blackwood

  10. Anonymous · August 15, 2007

    I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Aside from the fact that it will never happen, very little would actually change if it did. The arguments may be valid, but St. John’s will always be the cultural and economic center of the province, regardless of where the provincial government is based.

  11. Liam Herringshaw · August 15, 2007

    Hi Frank,

    I didn’t mean to give the impression I was tired of St John’s. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I think it’s a wonderful city with a fascinating history, and want to see that conserved and lauded. It’s simply in the wrong location for Newfoundland as it is today – a Canadian province – and attempts to expand and develop the city will only require more suburban sprawl, more food miles, and more destruction of its heritage.

  12. Liam Bussey · August 15, 2007

    Someone is living in a fantasy and these arguments mean nothing. I guess you think George st and most of the Population of St John’s move to Corner Brook as well.