Rush hour study will harm retail

The city’s transportation services office is consulting the public about increasing no-parking times during rush hours on Queen, Dundas, and College and Carlton from Roncesvalles Ave. to Parliament St. so public transit vehicles can move faster.

But the close-to 500-member Queen West BIA can tell them the increased no-parking times that were imposed in their area between University and Bathurst in August 2013—without consultation—have been bad for business.

No-parking times there run from 7 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. on both sides of the street. They used to be 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

Queen West BIA chair Spencer Sutherland said his members have complained to him about the increased times for no parking.

“Our neighbourhood got hit with the parking restrictions without even any notice. They just suddenly appeared. We’ve had a lot of discussion from our membership on exactly what impacts it did have,” Sutherland, Nocturne Club owner, said in an interview.

Sutherland said parking “is probably at the top of issues that affect our membership.”

Those three hours of no-parking in the morning have made delivery drivers change their schedules. Now they’re arriving around the lunch period, “a peak time of day for us in terms of customer traffic. (Businesses) that have to take deliveries through the front doors have had a real problem to keep their business running normally,” Sutherland said.

David Greig, co-owner of Wildhagen Hats, said regular and new customers have expressed disappointment about the extended no-parking times.

“Because you can’t park after (3 p.m.) there’s always an anxiety and concern they’re not going to be able to find parking. It never was as much of an issue for our customers as it is now. There’s a lot of towing happening,” Greig told The Bulletin. “I think it’s discouraging people from coming Downtown.”

He said there’s no visual evidence that increased no-parking hours have made any difference in traffic flow. “You could bowl on this street at 3 o’clock. There’s no traffic at all.” He said traffic volume doesn’t start to pick up until 4 or 4:30 p.m.

He said the new times were all about speeding up traffic flow with no consideration given to shopkeepers who are trying to run a business.

Larry Krupski, owner of Jacobs Hardware, which has been in business 90 years, said the number of morning walk-in customers “has totally changed. We used to have people lined up at the store outside waiting to come in for 9 o’clock. (Now) we don’t get busy ‘til after 10 o’clock.”

With shoppers having to move their cars by 3 p.m. “it’s affecting us that way, too,” he said. “We’re down, we’re definitely down.”

He said he never thought Queen West traffic was high after 9 a.m. “I didn’t think Queen St. needed it (another hour of no-parking). I didn’t think it was that bad in the morning.”

As for no parking beginning at 3 p.m. he asks, “Are people going home at 3 o’clock in the afternoon? Most people work to at least 4. Most people that I know work ‘til 5 and 6 o’clock. What rush-hour starts at 3 o’clock?”

Restaurants and other venues that feature live bands have put back their evening concert times—meaning less business—because the bands can’t stop on Queen until 7 p.m. to unload their equipment.

“They’ve had to push their hours for live music back. (Parking) is a variety of challenges for a variety of businesses,” said Sutherland.

He sees a couple of solutions. The city could increase no-parking times on one side of Queen at a time—on the south in the morning when commuters are traveling east into Downtown, and on the north in the afternoon when they’re travelling west out of the core.

“To do it on both sides of the street didn’t make a whole lot of sense. We’d really like to pull it back to one side only and that would really solve a lot of problems,” said Sutherland.

He feels the city used his BIA as a guinea pig for increased no-parking restrictions. “We were a guinea pig, but a guinea pig that they didn’t bother studying. We had to speak up and say ‘hey, you already did this to us.’”

“We support the idea (of reducing congestion) but … there are ways (the city) could be doing this a lot smarter,” said Sutherland. “A staged approach … would be helpful so you can see the impact.”

He thinks Richmond and Adelaide streets, south of Queen with a lot fewer small businesses, should take the brunt of no-parking times. The way it’s playing out, explains Sutherland, seems to suggest the Queen West business section is a thoroughfare for traffic rather than a place where motorists can stop and shop.

“It sends the wrong message,” said Sutherland. But he added if the city wants to cut parking on Queen then it should provide parking lots so people can stop and shop. “If you just remove the parking then you’re hurting businesses.”

There’s also the matter of bicyclists and pedestrians, said Sutherland. Parked cars on Queen would cause vehicles to travel slower, making the road safer for cyclists, and also create a buffer for people who stand between the cars as they wait to cross the street.

Four lanes of moving traffic, said Sutherland, creates “a divide. The congestion relief as presented is designed to benefit commuters and is not designed to benefit people who actually live Downtown.”

“Rather than trying to get people in and out of the city faster how about encouraging them to stay longer, how about making people not feeling like they have to flee the city so quickly,” said Sutherland.

City media spokeswoman Rosalynd Rupert said that according to Downtown’s transportation services director Kyp Perikleous a city study about increased no-parking times “will not look at the possibility” of returning Queen West BIA’s no-parking hours to their original times.

Greig said Downtown Councillor Joe Cressy, whose ward includes the Queen West BIA, has indicated to him he wants an evaluation of the no-parking restrictions. Cressy told him the Queen West restrictions prioritized traffic movement over the interests of local businesses and residents.

Cressy was not available for an interview.

Posted On: September 01, 2015