NORTH PERTH – On Sept. 13, Tim Bakelaar made a presentation to council to raise concerns about the one-way street pilot project currently set up in downtown Listowel.
The delegation to council was spearheaded by Bakelaar but he told the Banner it originally started with concerns raised by BK’s Brand Name Clothing. He said he has also spoken with representatives from Watson’s Home Hardware, Tenpas Decor Centre, Diana Sweet’s and Corley Sports.
“They are all right behind us too,” said Bakelaar.
The first concern he raised was that council made the decision based on studies provided by “outside sources.” Cambridge-based Paradigm Transportation Solutions Limited is the lead consultant contracted by the municipality for its Transportation Masterplan. Since 1998 Paradigm has been involved in over 4,200 transportation engineering projects.
“As residents and business owners, we feel these decisions have not taken into consideration, the actual performing business or residents living in this community on a day-to-day basis,” said Bakelaar. “Residents and business owners are the basis of this community tax base and it is for this reason we feel we need to address the positive and negative changes that have been acted upon.”
Bakelaar acknowledged the pedestrian crosswalks on Wallace and Elma streets by the trails and the four-way stop at the intersection of Elma and Wallace as positive changes that benefit the community.
He did, however, raise concerns about the one-way section of Wallace between Main and Elma streets.
“The largest new subdivision of Listowel comes down Wallace to shop downtown or proceed to the northside of town – the removal of this traffic flow for only emergency vehicles has residents turning left or right onto Elma and then turning left or right back onto Main Street adding to the congestion you are concerned with,” he said.
Bakelaar then moved into his biggest concern.
“Taking away downtown parking spaces to make traffic move through at a faster rate is not safe,” he said. “Parking is a buffer zone for safety, and now the traffic is closer to the sidewalk.”
Seven parking spaces were removed and the accessible parking spot which was in front of Bakelaar’s store was moved. He noted concern because he believed the accessible spot had not been replaced.
“The (accessible parking spot) was moved approximately seven spots to the west of the original location, beside the Argyle Street crosswalk,” North Perth Manager of Operations Lyndon Kowch informed the Banner in an email. “Additional signage has been placed. There is an already existing accessible spot just east of this on the other side of the crosswalk.”
Bakelaar said the removal of the seven parking spaces affects seniors and young families. “Asking our customers to walk a greater distance will only deter them from coming downtown,” he said. “Customers have already been vocal about their difficulty, and we have noticed an increase in customers defying the no parking and just parking out of frustration.”
Another concern raised was the removal of the crosswalk from Main Street East and Wallace.
“This causes frustration for the customers we need downtown,” said Bakelaar. “We have witnessed more jaywalking in the past three weeks.”
He said he recognizes traffic is an issue in the downtown core.
“It may not be an easy answer to create a bypass, but changing existing infrastructure in an old town is not possible,” said Bakelaar. “Buildings are buildings… We all have to work together to encourage our community to live, work and shop here. Creating a quick fast track to move traffic by taking away downtown parking is not encouraging this.”
Coun. Matt Richardson reiterated that the changes to the downtown core are on a trial basis.
“We still have work to do to look at that and we certainly understand and will take all of the opinions including downtown business owners which are vital to our community,” he said. “We want to be able to all work together and we will look at that after the trial period is done for this.”
Mayor Todd Kasenberg said he thinks Richardson summarized the thoughts he had on behalf of council.
“I know I can assure that there will be more consultation that lies ahead,” he said. “That will include a public information session opportunity for a range of people to bring their comments forward. Yours will certainly be brought to that part.”
Later in the meeting, Kasenberg returned to this issue.
“Is there any will here to do anything or shall we wait for the experiment to come to its natural end?” he asked.
Coun. Lee Anne Andriessen said she was interested in Bakelaar’s concerns with parking.
“When we were initially looking at this change I guess I failed to understand that there would be some parking implications and I’m wondering if, given the feedback that we have, could there be some more immediate changes to having the parking returned to Main Street if possible,” she said. “I’d like more information about that and if something could be changed sooner.”
Council voted in favour of having Kowch prepare a report for the council meeting on Sept. 20 regarding parking and the possibility of a request from council to restore some parking if they wish.
The report noted that as part of the pilot project the consultants had recommended to council several modifications to the layout of the main intersection, specifically, there were two areas where seven parking spots, six regular spots and one accessible spot, were going to be modified or removed.
On Main Street East the centre median was widened to help separate the southbound left-turn traffic movement, subsequently, the parking spots were removed to ensure that there would be no conflict with the eastbound traffic.
“These stalls are being monitored for the duration of the trial and consideration is being given to the possibility of reinstating one or more of these stalls especially those to the east,” Kowch’s report stated.
However, the two spots on Main Street West, one regular and the accessible spot which was moved seven spots to the west, were removed as they were already conflicting with the normal operation of the intersection before the trial began.
“They prevent through traffic from entering the through lane creating additional queues,” the report stated. “It should be noted that the accessible stall in this area is located in a hazardous location as it is the last stall prior to the through lane. Moving this stall to its temporary location next to the Argyle crosswalk is recommended regardless of the permanence of the trial. The regular stall that was also removed as it conflicts with the through lane similarly.”
Coun. Allan Rothwell asked if there was any change in the geometry of the lanes near these two parking spots. Kowch said there was not any change.
“So I’m just wondering if they were previously there and put there by the municipality, how in fact were they put there if there was a concern,” said Rothwell.
Kowch said he is not sure how they originated and that the concerns were raised from a design perspective from the consulting engineer and observation.
“Those spots continue to block traffic heading into the through lane and always have and created queues that went into the Argyle pedestrian crosswalk and also back to Livingstone,” he said. “With those removed, it allows… the smaller vehicles to cut over into the through lane. Previous queues were there simply because of some of those obstructions… we sat there for several hours observing traffic flow. It was a pre-existing condition. It created a very tight margin between the through traffic and the side doors of those cars in those two spots especially with one being a handicap spot it was considered a very hazardous location... it creates a more open safer conveyance of the traffic… and it reduces something… called false queues that don’t need to be there if cars aren’t parked there.”
Coun. Terry Seiler made some suggestions about improved visibility of signage, specifically a ‘no left turn’ sign. Kowch said there are already plans to make those changes to make signage more visible.
Kasenberg and Andriessen raised concerns about the loss of parking and the effect it may have on downtown businesses.
“I think it’s important to just restate the consultants are coming back,” said Kowch. “What was removed was removed purely for safety. They’ll be able to make comments on what modifications we could make to make some of the removed stalls possibly safer and reinstated. They know this is a critical issue. Actually, it has come up right from the start.”
It was recommended that council await the public information centre and the final report from the consultant and recommendations on the trial and that any changes that are finalized by council can be implemented at that time.
The trial is expected to last into October when a public information centre will be held on Oct. 4 with the consultant in attendance. After that final information session, recommendations will be brought to council.
Colin Burrowes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner