A Kamloops city councillor is resurrecting discussion to scrap one-way streets downtown in a bid to improve business and pedestrian access.
Coun. Denis Walsh called one-way streets — which are located on Seymour Street, Lansdowne Street, First Avenue and Third Avenue — restrictive and outdated. He said one-way streets create highway-like conditions for vehicles passing through and discourage foot and bicycle traffic in the core at a time when people are increasingly seeking alternative transportation.
He said the majority of drivers using the one-way streets to pass through the downtown core to other parts of the city, rather than to shop.
“I think we’re strangling our growth of our downtown by having an arterial highway splitting our city,” he said.
City engineering manager Deven Matkowski said one-way streets were implemented downtown in the late 1980s as a way to enhance vehicular traffic flow. One-way streets exist in pairs downtown — east-west on Lansdowne and Seymour streets and north-south on First and Third avenues — creating corridors that allow smooth traffic in one direction.
If removed, it is expected the same volume of vehicles would not be able to get downtown.
Discussion about scrapping one-way streets downtown is not new. It came up during the last time the city underwent downtown planning in the early 2000s. Ultimately, they remained, with Walsh maintaining it is a polarizing issue that stems on “car-centric people who think automobile is king.”
For that reason, Walsh wants to gauge public desire for such an initiative before bringing forward any notice of motion on the matter.
Asked if pushing for such a change constitutes a conflict of interest for him — Walsh owns two businesses downtown (The Vic and MovieMart) — he said the improvements would benefit the area as a whole and noted his businesses are located on two-way streets. The Vic is at the corner of Victoria Street and Fourth Avenue and MovieMart is at the corner of St. Paul Street and Fourth Avenue.
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The city is wrapping up community engagement on the downtown plan, with the final plan expected to be adopted sometime this year. The plan will guide land use in the downtown, Sagebrush and West End neighbourhoods for the next two decades.
Meanwhile, city council will receive an update on Tuesday, Aug. 13, on downtown parking as part of the downtown transportation choices strategy.
City community and protective services director Byron McCorkell said a consultant reviewed how vehicles move and stop in the city’s core — from the Thompson River to Columbia Street and from First Avenue to 10th Avenue — keeping in mind potential development projects, such as a performing-arts centre, Fourth Avenue plaza and Stuart Wood cultural centre.
The review determined downtown currently has an adequate supply of parking to meet demand through the next five years. A limited number of areas downtown are expected to be stretched beyond capacity in the next decade, such as the Lansdowne Mall/ Lansdowne transit exchange area, and improvements could be made on how short-term and long-term parking is managed. At issue is conflict between those who park downtown for work versus those who visit for a specific task, like shopping.
“Really, this is kind of a flag saying, you’ve got a lot of stalls, you’ve got a lot of cars. If you’re going to have a lot of cars, you need to prioritize your management of those stalls such that you can move the cars to the areas that maybe you don’t have an overuse of parking,” McCorkell said. “At the same time, culminate the traffic patterns that may be coming our way in the next 10, 20 years.”