Changes proposed for Saskatoon’s bus, bike lane routes
Posted on June 21, 2018 in In the Media
Concern over proposed bus-only lanes in downtown Saskatoon and the Broadway district dominated a special meeting at city hall on the city’s transportation future.
Business groups and owners appeared on Wednesday to convince city council it’s worth considering moving a planned two-way bus-only stretch from Third Avenue to First Avenue.
Meanwhile, some were left confused over whether the Broadway business community opposed an increased transit frequency route along the street, or just opposed the proposed bus-only lanes.
Under an overhaul of Saskatoon’s transit system based on bus rapid transit (BRT) principles of high-frequency routes, bus-only lanes have been proposed for Third, Broadway and College Drive.
“I really got mixed messages from Broadway today,” Coun. Randy Donauer said at the five-hour meeting of council’s governance and priorities committee.
Broadway Business Improvement District executive director DeeAnn Mercier said businesses wanted answers to various questions, but the district generally backs the plan.
Mercier suggested the city wait five or 10 years before installing bus-only lanes to see whether it’s justified by increased ridership.
Two Broadway business owners appeared later, however, to say nearly all businesses oppose the BRT route running through Broadway. Debbie Taylor, who owns Hats & That, said she has collected 500 signatures from businesses and customers on a petition opposing BRT on Broadway.
The petition proposes an alternate route crossing over the Senator Sidney L. Buckwold Bridge and then connecting to First Avenue downtown.
“The bus freeway, as I call it, should not go down Broadway,” said Scott Barlett, owner of the Bulk Cheese Warehouse. “It is the beginning of a disaster for Broadway as we know Broadway now.”
Peggy Sarjeant appeared on behalf of the Saskatoon Heritage Society to stress the need to maintain the “ambience” of the city’s oldest business district.
“Please be careful what you do with Broadway,” she said.
Several business leaders appeared to voice support for moving the bus-only lanes from Third to First, including representatives of Midtown Plaza, the Downtown Saskatoon business improvement district and the North Saskatoon Business Association (NSBA).
Businesses along Third, which include 14 restaurants, are concerned about the loss of parking with the introduction of bus-only lanes.
“I don’t know what the logic is here,” said Don Richardson, owner of Creative Compliments on Third. “I can’t conceive why this would ever be contemplated.”
NSBA executive director Keith Moen said he supports the possibility of moving bus-only lanes to First and then considering moving dedicated bike lanes from Fourth to Third.
Moen, whose organization opposed the temporary bike lanes on Fourth, said he believes most businesses and people in the city oppose downtown bike lanes.
City administrators say moving the bike lanes to Third is a possibility if a decision is made to move the BRT route to First.
Wednesday’s meeting was intended to discuss both transit improvements and a proposed dedicated downtown bike network on Fourth Avenue, 23rd Street, 19th Street and Idylwyld Drive. The bikes got a lot less attention than the buses, even though the bike lane pilot project proved controversial.
“Getting hung up on details has the potential to destroy this (transit) plan in its entirety,” said Curt McCoshen of Bus Riders of Saskatoon.
Drew Byers, who uses a scooter, said he wants more attention paid to accessibility. He said the bikes lanes on Fourth make it difficult to exit his vehicle safely.
Cora Janzen of the Saskatchewan Health Authority lent support to both plans for their potential to affect community health. She noted nearly half of Saskatoon residents are classified as “physically inactive.”
Coun. Bev Dubois said some residents believe both the bus plan and the bike lanes are just possibilities, but she said it’s a matter of “how, not if.”
No final decision will be made on either project until the fall.