Co-op owner worries Gottingen bus lane would stop progress 'in its tracks'

A proposal to prioritize buses over parking on Gottingen Street in Halifax could force a community hub to close its doors, and stall the revival of the street in its tracks, says one business owner.

Proposal to turn parking into a dedicated bus lane also has its proponents

The city is proposing to prioritize buses on Gottingen Street during rush hour. (CBC)

A proposal to prioritize buses over parking on Gottingen Street in Halifax could force a community hub to close its doors and stall the revival of the street in its tracks, according to one business owner. 

City staff had originally suggested removing the parking and loading zones entirely along the east side of the north-end street, in order to create a dedicated northbound bus lane.

That plan was scrapped by the members of the city's transportation committee on Thursday, in favour of a motion to prioritize buses during peak hours only (7 a.m.-9 a.m. and 3 p.m.-6 p.m., Monday to Friday). City staff are now examining the possible implications of that proposal.

Robert Chiasson, the manager of Plan B Merchants Co-op, which offers low-cost event space for small businesses to sell their products, community groups to host meetings, all-ages concerts and plays, as well as a communal kitchen, said the revised plan could still be "detrimental" to his business.

"We might have to pack up and find a new place to go," he told the CBC's Information Morning.

The manager of Plan B Merchants Co-op, Robert Chiasson, said a decrease in parking on the street could put him out of business. (Google Maps)

Chiasson said he's worried a decrease in parking — even during peak hours only — would reduce foot traffic in the neighbourhood, and that would be a blow to a non-profit like his that has very tight margins.

"I'm not sure how we're going to survive," he said.

But the councillor for Halifax South Downtown, Waye Mason, said the proposal could actually help a street like Gottingen reconnect to the greater community by making it easier for locals to use transit, and by encouraging visitors from other neighbourhoods to see what Gottingen has to offer.

He also said the motion to prioritize buses on Gottingen Street during rush hour is part of what it takes to improve the bus system in the city overall.

Transit "needs to go through the heart of communities" in order to work effectively, he said.

Ben Wedge, the executive director of a public transit advocacy group called It's More Than Buses, said he is "very much in favour" of the proposal, adding it would eliminate the five-minute delay most bus passengers currently face when heading north on Gottingen Street.

Transit advocate Ben Wedge said prioritizing buses on Gottingen Street would eliminate the five-minute delay for northbound buses. (CBC)

Chiasson said he doesn't have a problem with improving transit overall, but he questions whether Gottingen Street is the right place to channel city buses.

He suggests making the Cogswell Interchange and Barrington Street the main transit corridors in that part of the city.

On Thursday, councillors asked city staff to write a report on how feasible it would be to move express buses — those that travel on Gottingen Street without stopping — off Gottingen to Barrington before they access the Macdonald Bridge. 

Gottingen Street has made progress in recent years, Chiasson said, and this plan seems to be "designed to stop that in its tracks."

He said he's watched Gottingen Street "come to life" during his seven years operating a non-profit on the street.

"This would seem to be counter-intuitive to the movement that's currently underway," he said.

About the Author

Nina Corfu

Associate Producer

Nina Corfu is a journalist based in Halifax. She aims to tell stories that people want to share around the dinner table each night. If you have a snackable story idea to share, please drop her a line at nina.corfu@cbc.ca.

With files from the CBC's Information Morning.