Planning to drive your car down Spring Garden Road? Think again
Business owners are split on bus-only corridor from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
A portion of Halifax's Spring Garden Road will be closed to cars for much of the day beginning Monday, a decision that has divided area businesses.
The area from South Park Street to Queen Street will be for buses, cyclists and pedestrians from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. AT. Cars, taxis and Ubers are not permitted.
The pilot project will last a year.
"I think it's going to be awesome, personally," said Waye Mason, councillor for the area.
"The biggest thing is to have the buses run on time. And then the second thing we hope to get out of it is a better pedestrian experience on Spring Garden Road."
The city says the move is also about changing the atmosphere of Spring Garden. It wants to encourage more dining, strolling and rolling along the road.
"Since making the sidewalks wider, traffic feels closer to people walking," said Elora Wilkinson, HRM's principal planner. "So changing to bus-only will make things quieter and just improve the quality for pedestrians."
The bus-only route will be indicated with new signs and banners.
Cars will be able to cross Spring Garden from adjoining streets. Clyde Street will be changed into a two-way street to keep traffic moving. Brenton Street will be made into a one-way street northbound allowing only left turns onto Spring Garden Road.
Traffic lights along the street won't be changed and buses will still have to stop at intersections. But Wilkinson said that could change during the year.
One thing that isn't changing too much is parking and loading.
"Some people seem confused about parking or taxis," said Wilkinson. "You already could not park on Spring Garden or dock a taxi. And loading was not allowed after 11 a.m."
Sue Uteck, the director of the Spring Garden Area Business Association, said a survey of businesses shows an even split.
"There are those merchants looking forward to getting more traffic off the street — the motorcycles, the revved-up cars — and there are those who are dreading it and think, with all the construction on South Park, it's just not the right time."
Kurt Bulger, owner of Jennifer's of Nova Scotia on Spring Garden, is not happy about the change.
"Getting around downtown now is tough and this just makes it tougher," he said. "You [won't be able] to access the centre of the street for anything [except] off the side streets, all to get the buses to go 300 yards further down the road."
He thinks fewer people will come downtown with the bus-only lane combined with construction projects closing roads.
"A lot of businesses are trying to climb out of the pandemic that hit us over the last two years," he said. "So the balance on most people's books is not great. Last year, during the construction season, that was not that great either.
"If our sales go down, we'll be screaming like hell."
Similar bus-only corridors exist in some larger Canadian cities. There's a bus-only pilot project in Vancouver and a transit-priority corridor in Toronto.
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