Down­town busi­nesses sug­gest First Av­enue for bus-only lanes

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - CITY + REGION - PHIL TANK twit­­tanksk

Down­town Saska­toon busi­nesses sup­port im­prove­ments to the city ’s tran­sit ser­vice, but they think First Av­enue would pro­vide a bet­ter home for bus-only lanes than Third Av­enue.

The city this week re­leased the con­fig­u­ra­tion of new rapid-ser­vice cor­ri­dors that will be dis­cussed at a spe­cial meet­ing of city coun­cil on Wed­nes­day.

The most con­tentious part of the rapid ser­vice routes that snake their way through­out the city are bus-only lanes in the Broad­way Av­enue busi­ness dis­trict and on Third Av­enue down­town.

“The mix of busi­nesses on First is a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent,” said Brent Penner, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Down­town Saska­toon busi­ness im­prove­ment dis­trict.

“There’s go­ing to be chal­lenges what­ever street you put this on if it goes ahead.”

The plan to im­prove tran­sit ser­vice in­cludes el­e­ments of bus rapid tran­sit, in­clud­ing three stretches of bus-only lanes run­ning in two di­rec­tions on Third, Broad­way and Col­lege Drive.

Penner said the Mid­town Plaza, lo­cated on First Av­enue, supports the idea of bus-only lanes, while the busi­nesses sur­veyed by Down­town Saska­toon show over­whelm­ing op­po­si­tion to bus-only lanes on Third Av­enue.

More than a dozen res­tau­rants line Third, along with sa­lons and gal­leries con­cerned about dis­plac­ing park­ing stalls to ac­com­mo­date bus-only lanes, Penner said.

He noted one of the long-term goals of the tran­sit plan is to im­prove den­sity along the rapid ser­vice cor­ri­dors. He thinks there’s more po­ten­tial for de­vel­op­ment along First, es­pe­cially be­tween Mid­town Plaza and 25th Street, he said.

“There’s cer­tainly some open spots (for de­vel­op­ment) along Third, but there’s also a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of her­itage build­ings.”

Penner noted the city made a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment on streetscape im­prove­ments to Third Av­enue a few years ago, and that money would be wasted if the street is re­de­vel­oped to host bus-only lanes.

Down­town Saska­toon has sub­mit­ted a let­ter to the city and Penner plans to speak at Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing of coun­cil’s gov­er­nance and pri­or­ity com­mit­tee.

“There is a need to make sure this is done right so it’s ben­e­fi­cial for the rid­ers, the busi­nesses and those that own prop­erty along the route,” Penner said.

Deeann Mercier, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Broad­way Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Dis­trict, also plans to ap­pear be­fore coun­cil on Wed­nes­day to ex­press a “lot of trep­i­da­tion” on be­half of area busi­nesses.

Like Penner, Mercier said busi­nesses sup­port the idea of tran­sit im­prove­ments in prin­ci­ple, but she’s con­cerned about the im­pact of the bus lanes and the con­struc­tion process.

Broad­way busi­nesses suf­fered hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in lost busi­ness two years ago dur­ing a sum­mer-long con­struc­tion project to re­place wa­ter pipes and pave the street, she noted.

Mercier said she be­lieves tran­sit con­struc­tion on Broad­way would not hap­pen un­til 2020 or 2021, but busi­nesses would like more de­tails.

She won­ders whether the city could wait un­til rid­er­ship rises be­fore build­ing bus-only lanes.

“There’s not a lot of places that are eas­ily com­pa­ra­ble to Broad­way,” Mercier said. “It’s a very pedes­trian-friendly space with a lot of busi­nesses in a fairly com­pacted area.

“It’s a her­itage space. It’s very well loved. A lot of peo­ple choose to live in the area be­cause of the char­ac­ter of Broad­way.”


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