Build a St. John’s Solarium
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
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
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.