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Fear and Loathing on Wyandotte Street

by Elaine Weeks and Asha Tomlinson

truck.jpgThe City of Windsor feels that removing parking along the whole length of Wyandotte Street is imperative in order to prevent future congestion. Local business owners and residents alike are concerned that this will be detrimental not only to business but also to the quality of life in the area. The Walkerville Times has prepared this article to help business owners and area residents become more aware of what the city is planning and how this could affect them.

Recently, the Windsor Long Range Transportation Study (WALTS) was commis-
sioned by the City of Windsor to examine how traffic needs in the city will be affected by future urban growth. According to John Tofflemire, Windsor's Commissioner of Traffic Engineering, "The study said that Wyandotte Street did encompass capacity problems over the next twenty years and we have to do something about it. A straightforward way to reduce traffic congestion is to remove on street parking."

Despite the fact that the city foresees the real problem occurring twenty years down the road, they are making preparations to begin removing parking much sooner.
"We want to be prepared." says Tofflemire.

The Historic Olde Walkerville Business Association and the Wyandotte Town Centre feel strongly that the city must keep parking on the street. They presented their concerns about the removal of parking to the City of Windsor in November, 1999 and demanded that if parking is to be removed, sufficient off-street parking must be in place first.

Walkerville BIA Co-ordinator Bridget Schellerman says, "Business owners are opposed to removing parking and have been very vocal and concerned about it. They do not want it to happen. They feel clients will not have a place to park and they will not want to seek out parking lots. "

Michael Richardson, owner of Icon for the Home on Wyandotte near Windermere feels that the removal of parking would have definite repercussions on Wyandotte businesses.

"I think people won't want to walk far to get to businesses. It will kill the village look ­ the feeling of the village community and this [Olde Walkerville] is a part of the city that has just made a comeback."

When informed about business owners' concerns regarding the prospect of losing street parking, Tofflemire responded, " They should be looking at the business opportunities they provide. Wyandotte will be connecting to east Riverside ­ there is a large business community there ­ if traffic is increasing, so are business opportunities. They should be making business plans ­ if we do not accommodate traffic, there cannot be growth."

 Richardson disagrees. "People will be driving so fast they won't even see the businesses along Wyandotte on their way to East Riverside. If people do stop to shop, they won't want to cross the road to look at other businesses because of the traffic. One reason I chose the Walkerville area is for the feeling and the look of it ­ its unique heritage- if that changes then it does not make sense for me to be here."

Tofflemire says that speeding is not and will not be an issue. "Speeding is not likely to be a problem. It's not nearly as bad as Tecumseh Road. We already have signalization at major intersections that controls the measure of speed. It will be far more efficient and environmentally friendly if traffic is able to move at a good pace. There will be better accessibility."

Audrey Ingratta, owner of The Dressers on Tecumseh Road, between Gladstone and Moy, is familiar with the dilemma facing Wyandotte Street merchants.

"I have been in this area for 19 years. They were going to take away our off street parking too but we went to City Hall and we fought it and won ­ this was about ten or twelve years ago. We do have no parking or stopping laws between the hours of 3-5pm. You get a $40 ticket if you park during those times. If my clients park in front of the store at 2:30 pm, they have to go out and move their car; it is a hassle."

Off street parking was provided for customers and workers but Ingratta's experience indicates that people prefer to park in front of the store or business. "There is a municipal lot at the corner of Tecumseh and Moy but it is usually empty." says Ingratta.

As for traffic moving at a controlled speed, Ingratta disagrees.
"There have been a lot of accidents since it [the parking was removed] ­ just last week there was a big one ­ people go too fast."

Walkerville residents are concerned that the removal of parking to accommodate four lanes of traffic will increase not only the volume of traffic through their neighbourhood but also the likelihood that someone is going to get injured trying to cross the road.

Giselle Loeper has lived at the same address on Windermere Road since 1956. She is very concerned about the planned changes. "I am strictly against it. There are a lot of seniors who live here and do not drive- they have to be very careful with traffic when crossing the street. I would not be surprised if I got hit."

Loeper is also concerned about the safety of children attempting to cross Wyandotte, fears echoed by Paul LaJeunesse, principal of King Edward School which has students living north of Wyandotte.

"If there is more traffic going more quickly, it could be dangerous for students... you tend to go a little bit slower with the cars parked there. For example, Tecumseh Road ­ I see people speeding all the time during rush hour."

Residents and business owners don't feel that future congestion should be a concern of City Hall. They feel that City Hall should be aware of the fact that Wyandotte has too many speeders and too many trucks, and they're worried that if the street becomes four lanes, things will get much worse.

Nancy Drew, Katnandu co-owner, a salon situated on Wyandotte & Winderemere, has been keeping an eye on speeders and the amount of truck volume for a long time. "We took a count one day, just to see how many trucks go by us in a half hour," says Drew, "and it was 69 trucks - and that wasn't even during peak time!"

Drew worries about other consequences as well. "We will be breathing in more polluted air with the excess traffic, and the noise and vibrations will be a drawback too. Already we are seeing cracks in our ceiling from all the trucks!"

Ward 5 Councillors Alan Halberstadt and Fulvio Vanlentis share the concerns of their constituents. Says Halberstadt, "I originally approved the study but I am now opposed to the idea [of parking removal] since consulting with merchants along Wyandotte. A lot of people are dependent on parking in front of these places." He also feels that the street will become, "a preferred truck route and it will not be compatible with a shopping/retail district."

Valentinis says, "I don't think it [removing parking] is necessary. There is a little bit of benefit to the traffic flow but the downside to the local area and the detriment to the businesses is greater in the community's point of view.

Halberstadt adds, "The council is aware that there will be strong opposition. Keep fighting it ­ parking has not been removed yet."

Editor's Note:

If you feel strongly about the potential negative repercussions of parking removal along Wyandotte Street, please call Alan Halberstadt at 973-8323, Fulvio Valentis at 255-6684 or John Tofflemire at 255-6341.

It is The Walkerville Times' position that if City Hall wishes to reduce congestion in Windsor, they should look at a current bottleneck that exists on the stretch of Walker Road between Tecumseh Road and the 401. This main north-south artery cannot handle the increased volume of traffic generated by the big box stores (and there are more to come) and the number of  commuters accessing Chrysler's, G.M. etc. The busy train crossing near Grand Marais is an embarassment and causes massive delays whenever a train  passes through- isn't it time to consider an overpass?

And don't even get us going about Howard Avenue south of the mall...

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