The idea of closing Brant Street completely got mentioned - didn't go further than that

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

June 9th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The increase in the traffic in Spender Smith Park brought an issue to a head at the Standing Committee on Tuesday.

Meed ward looking askance

Mayor did not take kindly to Kearns comments.

Tempers flared just a little bit and the Mayor chose to ask to speak on a Point of Personal Privilege after Councilor Kearns made a comment about the Mayor needing to get out on the street and see for herself that people were not wearing face masks.

Kearns got kind of feisty with her remarks. She can at times be rather sharp with her words.

The item being debated was Options to increase physical distancing on Brant Street in response to Covid-19.

Recommendation:
Direct the Director of Transportation to proceed with one of the options the Transportation department had set out in their report.

A report which they put together on very short notice that called for them to work with the Burlington Downtown Business Improvement (BDBA) and the Ward 2 Councillor on soliciting input from downtown businesses on the approved option.

Earlier in the year, May 8, City Council Directed the Executive Director of Community Planning, Regulation and Mobility and the Director of Transportation Services to explore options to increase the ability for physical distancing and safe passage in response to COVID-19 for the area of Brant Street (Caroline Street to Lakeshore Road) for Saturdays and Sundays, from July 3 – September 5, 2021; to come back a report and recommendation to the June 8, 2021 Community Planning, Regulation and Mobility Committee meeting. (SD-10-21)

The current conditions on Brant Street from Lakeshore Road to Caroline Street includes a lane configuration consisting of one travel lane in each direction with curbside parking predominantly on both sides of the road. Truck loading and 20-minute curbside drop-off zones also exist within the curbside parking lane. During normal conditions, there is no charge for parking after 6 pm and on weekends.

A review of recent traffic studies available on Brant Street north of Caroline Street has revealed traffic volumes on Saturday and Sunday are approximately 1,000 vehicles per hour (both directions).

As part of the 2021 Temporary Patio Program, there are 4 establishments with applications pending approval to use portions of the public right-of-way along Brant Street.

Options Considered
The identification of options to provide physical distancing along Brant Street took into consideration the current lane configuration, the extent and type of traffic control devices required to maintain safety and potential impacts to residents, business and others utilizing the roadway. The focus in determining options was to seek additional space for people to comply with physical distancing guidelines while walking or waiting.

The options identified include the following:
Option 1 – Close the parking lanes to extend the sidewalk
This option involves closing the curbside parking where it exists on both sides of Brant Street. This space will become a pedestrian area and an extension to the sidewalk, as illustrated in Figure 1.

With this configuration, the pedestrian area is proposed to be separated from the traffic lanes by using freestanding movable delineators. These devices are weighted but portable and provide separation for the pedestrian area while capable of being placed and removed each Saturday and Sunday until September.
The existing curbside pick-up will require relocation and/or removal should this option be endorsed by Council.

Close parking lanes*Image courtesy of NACTO Streets for Pandemic Response & Recovery

Option 2 – Full closure of Brant Street from Lakeshore Road to Caroline Street
This option involves a full road closure on Saturdays and Sundays and provides the maximum available space for physical distancing.

The finalists getting out of the starting gate. Accura on Brant beat Leggat Mazda in a well run race.

Parts of Brant Street have been closed in the past. The Hospital Bed Race takes over the street for close to half a day when it takes place.

The traffic control required for this option involves the placement of barricades and road closed signs on Brant Street located at both Lakeshore Road and Caroline Street and at all intersecting roadways within this closed section. As a result, traffic on Lakeshore Road cannot turn onto Brant Street and traffic heading southbound on Brant Street towards Caroline Street will need to be directed east or west. In addition, the 6 streets intersecting with Brant Street would need to be signed, barricaded and closed to local access only.

While the full closure option provides the maximum space available for physical distancing on Brant Street, it has the following impacts:
• Displacement of non-local or through traffic onto adjacent streets.
• The current 20-minute curbside drop off areas would be inaccessible resulting in impacts to area businesses.
• The current loading zones will be inaccessible for trucks to load and unload if/when providing deliveries to local businesses on weekends.
• Restricts access to driveways, laneways and parking lots along Brant St.

• Impacts transit routes and requires buses to be re-routed around closed sections of road, in turn affecting bus schedules and potential customer confusion as transit re-routing would be limited to weekends only.

A variation of this option could include modifying the limits of the closure. For example, a possible change could include a full closure of Brant Street from Lakeshore Road to Elgin Street. While many of the issues related to a full closure still exist, they are lessened as a result of a shorter section of Brant Street being closed.

A number of municipalities have made the decision to close a street that was once a major thoroughfare.  The response from the commercial/retail sector was seldom positive but when the change did take place business for most retail operations improved and different kinds of commercial moved in.

Closing Brant Street permanently from Caroline to Lakeshore was a long term dream of former Councillor John Taylor – perhaps the time for that idea has come

Option 3 – Status Quo/enhanced pedestrian delineation
Under existing conditions, pedestrian circulation can be, at times, challenging at key intersections and/or higher volume business entrances along Brant Street. In 2020, staff worked with the BDBA in developing and installing enhanced pedestrian queuing delineation and signage which helped to guide the public around locations that were identified as pinch points. This delineation will be re-installed and refreshed again for 2021.

Financial Matters:
The key costs to providing either option includes the traffic control materials to support the closures and the staff resources to set up and remove every Saturday and Sunday. Costs for each option have been estimated and summarized below.

STREET CLOSE COST OPTIONS

The associated costs will be identified as Covid19 related with the potential for these costs to be offset by Covid relief grant funds. Engagement

Engagement Matters:
This report attempts to provide Council with options however due to the short turnaround to provide Council with a follow up report, staff have not engaged the community to date. Support from the Burlington Downtown Business Association (DBDA) and Downtown businesses is key for any of the described options to be successful. Following endorsement of a preferred option by Council, it is anticipated the Ward Councillor will lead the engagement of businesses and the BDBA with staff assistance as required.

There are retailers that get it - and they are the one's that succeed. The shopping bag that lady is carrying isn't empty. The folks that run Joelle's understand retail. There were far too many stores closed.

There are retailers that get it – and they are the ones that succeed. The shopping bag that lady is carrying isn’t empty. The folks that run Joelle’s understand retail.

Council members were all over the map on this issue.

Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith wanted the status quo – do nothing.

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns was tough on this one.  She argued that the city had not done a very good job of patterning Brant Street and that there were a lot of gaps that were more walk-in offices than traditional retail offices.

She said there was a “romanticized view” of just what the street did for the city suggesting some thought there would be “seniors frolicking ” in the street.

Lisa Kearns

Councillor Kearns spars with the Mayor who used a Point of Personal Privilege to admonish her fellow Council member

Kearns said the city had reached a breaking point with congestion in the downtown core and that the congestion would only get worse as the city opened up.

Speaking for the retail community Kearns said they wanted to be able to use some of the street to boost their sales after a very financially hard 18 months.

Kearns then took a swipe at the Mayor suggesting that she get out and walk the streets and see for herself what was happening. remark to which the Mayor took offence and brought it up as a Point of Personal Privilege.

It didn’t strike this reporter as something that was out of order but the Mayor was clearly distressed.

Kearns, who was full of comments, pointed out that when things open up on Friday there will be lineups at the outdoor patios; there will be line ups outside the cannabis shop and crowding on the side walk.

The egress and ingress into those places where people are allowed to go was also problematic.

Brian Dean, top toff at the Downtown Business Association was out drumming up business for those of his members that took part in the Red Bag Sale. Too many of his members let the community down last Sunday. Keeping the doors closed while the city works at getting people out on the street isn't thew way the game is played.

Brian Dean, top toff at the Downtown Business Association out advocating for the interests of the downtown merchants.

Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan told Kearns and Stolte that he would love to have a chat about the issue but wanted them to take the idea of closing Brant off the table.

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte was right beside Kearns, however when the issue came up she asked Council to defer any decision until the July meeting arguing that there were just too many unknowns and that this was not the best time to make a decision.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman liked the idea and was prepared to go along with Stolte and Kearns to defer for a month.

Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna said that the interests of the business community were really important and that he wanted to hear what they had to say before he went along with any of the options.  He also told his council colleagues that they had not done their homework.

Council was told that Brian Dean, top dog at the BDBA, was for the status quo.  The idea of doing nothing gave the phrase “taking care of business” a whole new meaning.

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11 comments to The idea of closing Brant Street completely got mentioned – didn’t go further than that

  • Mary McCully

    Pedestrianization would put a happy end to the endless weekend and holiday street racing and the back firing loud mufflered vehicles. Every time you allow more apartments in the area you invite more people to live in the core where their sleep is disturbed every night by people who flaunt the laws without penalty. Other options, make Brant Street a southbound one way street, and add plenty of stop lights, or ticket dispensing cameras.

  • Eve St Clair

    Can’t wait for Guelph Line north of Prospect or the QEW to be closed for pedestrian traffic only and Council. wastes precious time arguing ……….oh wait …….it’s not Downtown . Never mind

  • Dave Turner

    Closing off a lower portion of Brant St and pedestrianing it would reinvigorate that area, give businesses there a real boost, and transform our downtown to a people friendly destination. Yeah many hurdles, such as peripheral parking, rerouting of traffic (not down residential streets), public transit connections, must be overcome. The hurdles can be overcome.

  • Hilary Durrant

    Hi Penny
    It’s strange how the human race do not like change. Once change has occurred that then becomes the ‘status quo’, and everyone is happy again.
    Traffic is only going to get heavier and the pollution worse, pedestrian precinct is the healthy option for all, especially for children who are at the right height to breath in cars and lorries obnoxious fumes.
    An ECoB associate of yours, Jim (sorry I’ve forgotten his last name) was delegated to the Council about a year or so ago and expressed how Glasgow merchants opposed its pedestrian precinct fearing it to be the death knell for their businesses. Now businesses are pleased with the outcome with increased footfall and healthier customers and staff. More cities and towns are now following suit, so there must be positive angles to this option.
    Unfortunately, Mr Dean does not seem to have the capability to move with the times and be open to change. The world is an ever changing place and those who oppose new options will be left behind.
    Surely the BDBA want continual improvement to enhance business not stifle it, stifling the customers in continuous ‘enhanced pedestrian queuing delineation’ is the status quo will only chase the consumers away.
    In centuries gone by, had they stuck to the status quo, we would all be in a very sad place.

  • perryb

    As an Aldershot resident who frequently goes to or through the downtown, I quickly adapt to traffic issues and live with them. Downtown Burlington is notorious for weird road design, what with traffic lanes appearing and disappearing all over the place, and developers given free reign to close lanes for years to do their work. it does not take very long to get used to whatever the current situation is. Burlington should take the example of many European cities and permanently convert the downtown area to pedestrians, with motorized services allowed between 1 and 6 AM only.

    • perryb

      On second thought, a downtown pedestrian area might be impossible due to having allowed the existence of tall residential towers at random all through the area.

      • David Barker

        Perry, you are so right !

        Major European cities, with considerably larger populations have made it work very successfully.

        I was informed yesterday that a major road in Ottawa has been pedestrianized. I don’t know if that is correct. But if Ottawa, a city where nothing gets done (political joke), then surely Burlington can do so also.

  • Penny Hersh

    LISTEN TO THE RETAILERS. Brian Dean was in favour of the “STATUS QUO”. That should be good enough.

    Closing any portion of Brant Street should be off the table.

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