Comment 80388

By seancb (registered) - website | Posted September 04, 2012 at 12:15:06

Dear Chair and Members of the General Issues Committee,

I am writing in support of Councillor McHattie's proposal to establish a One-Way to Two-Way Street Implementation Team.

I own and operate a business downtown. My first location was on Cannon Street at James North. Despite the success of James, I was constantly frustrated by the negative impact on my business caused by the speed of traffic on Cannon Street. I eventually decided to move.

A year and a half ago, I relocated to John Street North. Despite being on a block with very little retail activity, and despite being located across from a horribly managed methadone clinic (which dissuades casual shoppers from walking down our block) my business has grown and thrived. I believe that part of its success can be attributed to the fact that it is more comfortable to drive, cycle and walk on John Street due to moderate traffic speeds. It is also easier to access my business by car because customers can come from both directions and can easily slow down to look for address numbers and parking spaces without worrying about the speed of traffic approaching them from behind.

In addition to being a business owner, I am a resident of downtown. I witness first hand the negative impact of one way streets every day. The major arteries are horribly uncomfortable for anyone not moving 50-70km/hr in a car. The one-way side streets feel safer than the major streets but they make it very difficult to get to a destination. Even worse, they create major frustrations for visitors.

There are enormous financial costs associated with the maintenance of our wide freeway-style streets. The social costs are also huge. The citizens who benefit most from our one-ways are the ones who live at the outskirts of the city (and beyond), and who rely on our neighbourhoods as a short cut. Yet only a fraction of the cost of upkeep of this unnecessary lane capacity is shouldered by these beneficiaries. The majority of the cost is subsidized by residents who never use these streets, or who live near them, rely on them daily and who would prefer calm usable streets over maximum throughput. We cannot afford to continue providing these thoroughfares to short-cutting drivers.

We need to start building our city to attract new residents and to put on a good face to visitors (who may one day become residents). The only way we are going to be able to afford our increasing infrastructure costs is to grow our tax base. The most affordable place to grow our tax base is in the lower city, where we have the capability to increase density without building new infrastructure.

The only way we will accomplish this is by creating a lower city that is a desirable place to live. This means that we have to start treating wards 1, 2 and 3 as neighbourhoods rather than freeway bypasses. Changing our one-way grid is the first (And easiest) step towards a more livable downtown.

Surely we have great challenges ahead of us, but unless we take this important first step, all of our other endeavours will be less likely to succeed.

Thank you for your time,

Sean Burak Ward 2 resident and owner of Downtown Bike Hounds

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