More than two years after beginning a “temporary trial,” downtown Brandon is still scarred by ugly cement barricades that blockade several streets and force traffic to divert around them.
The goal of adding 70 new parking spots was laudable. And we continue to support city council’s willingness to conduct experiments quickly and cheaply.
But experiments should include evaluation of their success or failure.
While the pedestrian mall portion of the trial was quickly mothballed, we’re still stuck with the one-way loop on Ninth and 10th streets, as well as angled parking that was inelegantly placed on the wrong side of the street.
At Monday night’s council meeting, both Coun. Len Isleifson (Riverview) and Coun. Jan Chaboyer (Green Acres) brought up the angled parking issue.
“I almost got nailed … it’s very dangerous,” Isleifson said.
The trial, proposed by Rosser ward councillor Corey Roberts, was supposed to finish at the end of 2011.
We submit that it’s long past time to either make the trial streets permanent —with all the concomitant curb and roadwork that would entail, including moving the angled parking to the proper side — or to remove the barricades and let traffic flow its natural way.
For Brandon, a city populated by drivers, it’s taken as a natural truth that free flow of traffic is good. However, modern urban designers will tell you that vehicle traffic is only one of many elements that should be considered, especially in a city’s downtown.
A one-way loop around Brandon’s central core, lined with parking spots, will tend to encourage drivers to go around and around until they find a space. That could actually contribute to more traffic congestion, rather than less. It’s something we’ve noticed anecdotally in the right-hand lane of Rosser Avenue, as one-way 10th Street dumps extra traffic on it.
Historically, one-way streets downtown are a 60-year-old relic of Cold War planning, initially envisioned as a way to quickly evacuate densely populated areas in the event of a — we’re not kidding — nuclear attack.
That is no longer a serious concern for Brandon, if indeed it ever was (notwithstanding our nearby Canadian Forces base).
Downtown streets are not, and should not be designed as, thoroughfares.
Just an hour north of here, the townsite of Wasagaming in Riding Mountain National Park provides an alternative look at what downtown Brandon could emulate.
Wasagaming should be a traffic-heavy place — nobody takes the bus to get to the lake. But the main drag, Wasagaming Drive, is only one lane in each direction. It services a dense collection of shops and services, and somehow, people manage to navigate the dreaded parallel parking on each side.
There are no traffic lights, yet vehicles rarely drive faster than 40 km/h, and pedestrians have easy right-of-way at the many crosswalks.
It’s probably too progressive to suggest that Brandon revert both Rosser and Princess avenues to their natural two-way states, but we urge council to at least — at last — reconsider the mangling of Ninth and 10th streets.
As the long-awaited replacement of the Eighth Street bridge approaches, ensuring that all the factors work together downtown should be paramount. That includes not just traffic flow and parking but also pedestrian and cyclist access.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 21, 2013