One-way traffic isn’t doing Welland any favours

Tuesday’s presentation at City Hall outlining the Niagara Region’s plans for the painting & reconstruction of Bridge 13 – Welland’s Main St. bridge – has sparked some healthy discussion across the city. Allan Benner‘s article in yesterday’s Welland Tribune looked at the potential for two-way traffic on the Division St. bridge . All this talk regarding the planned restoration of the Main St. bridge this summer raises a question: has a study been done on the feasibility of restoring two-way traffic to downtown Welland on a permanent basis?

Hamilton’s 2001 conversion of James & John Streets to two-way traffic has been called “an unmitigated success.” The two-waying of St. Paul Street in St. Catharines in 2009, though controversial at first, has had positive results. In fact, the rationale behind eliminating one-way streets altogether is becoming clearer, as suggested in this National Post article:

 Two-way roads would help to “‘normalize’ the streets, by slowing traffic, creating a greater choice of routes, improving wayfinding, creating a more inviting address for residential and commercial investment and improving safety for pedestrians and cyclists,” according to a plan drafted by consulting firm Urban Strategies Inc.

There was a time, perhaps, when one-way traffic in downtown Welland made sense. Most one-way streets were converted from two-way streets during the middle decades of the 20th century in order to ease automobile traffic flow. During that time, there were numerous factories in and around downtown Welland & there was a need to get hundreds of workers in & out of the factories in a quick, orderly fashion. When the factories closed down, we continued to sacrifice “quality of place” for a quick method of getting cars THROUGH our downtown.

Keanin Loomis of Hamilton’s Innovation Factory, explains what one-way traffic says about how we view our cities…

The fact that our streets are still one-way shows that we cling to out-of-date ideologies. It shows, quite frankly, that we don’t have the highest regard for our city.

There is certainly no sense in blaming our leaders of past eras – there was a contagion running through every municipal government in North America. Our parents’ and grandparents’ generations made a lot of bad decisions as they tinkered with society-building in the post-War era. Architecture from that era is ugly. Suburbs and highways killed cities and neighborhoods.

While I take issue with his thoughts on post-war architecture (I happen to like the Division St Post Office, built in 1950 & the beautiful mid-century homes around Chippawa Park), the rest of that quote is pretty apt.

The arguments in favour of one-way traffic (especially in this article’s case) don’t really seem to hold up any more – especially in Welland.  Have a look at both sides of the discussion in this Calgary Sun article, which offers a primer on one-way vs. two-way streets.

Is two-way traffic in downtown Welland feasible? Is it desireable?

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11 thoughts on “One-way traffic isn’t doing Welland any favours

  1. As was pointed out at the meeting Tuesday not only is 2-way traffic feasible, it is highly desirable. My own survey of transit drivers resulted in 100% responding in favour of the latter.Every business owner contacted expressed the same.I suggest that it’s time our Municipal representatives,and our three Regional council members approach the “expert” consultants as a group and express the concerns that have been raised.The idea that the Region dictate to the City of Welland is simply not acceptable. Keep up the good work Kevin,my feeling on this decision is that it is not yet etched in stone.

  2. A group of citizens in Hamilton had a similar discussion (http://raisethehammer.org/article/1605/a_business_case_for_conversion_from_one-way_to_two-way_streets). There are some good points and links to studies, etc. from this link. From my perspective, converting one way streets to two way streets has very real benefits. It can increase “walkability” and play a role in any revitalization strategy for downtown cores. If, for example, we increased the number of people living in the core (which I consider a key component for making a vibrant downtown), allowing more options for getting to destinations would be desirable.

    • Thank you for the comment & for the link. The research in Wayland’s article presents a compelling case in favour of converting one-way streets into two-way streets. The anonymous commenter above raises another key question: have any Welland councillors spoken out about this topic? I would be interested to know this. Also, what do downtown business owners think about this topic? I agree with your “walkability” comment – it is pretty difficult to revitalize a downtown without a strategy for pedestrians. I would add that a focus on public spaces is important as well, but I may need to put together a whole other blog post on that one. In fact, walkability, public spaces, and residential communities in the core are 3 separate posts I’d like to investigate in the coming weeks!

  3. At the very least, could we not “try it before you buy it”? Before making a long-term commitment to making changes to traffic downtown, this is a golden opportunity to make an attempt and gauge the successes and failures if converting traffic. The naysayers will expect havoc similar in antucoation to the roundabout’s opening, but after some mishaps, drivers are becoming accustomed to it. The sane could be said for downtown. I’m not saying we shouldn’t expect any kinks in the implementation during the bridge closure, but it is simply worth a try.

    • Good point. I understand there is a period after traffic patterns are changed during which drivers are adjusting to the new situation. After that, things tend to normalize. There’s a study on that somewhere. I should dig it up.

  4. The issue has been discussed with council members at both levels.The idea of a permanent 2-way traffic system has been suggested.In light of the potential to make Bridge 13 a more attractive tourism venue I believe further input is needed.As it stands right now any adornments to Bridge 13 would be far more interesting than sitting watching grey paint dry.

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