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Oct. 27, 2020 | Tuesday
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NOTL will examine residents concerns about Chautauqua traffic, CAO says
Brian Crow and John Scott stand at the intersection of Vincent Avenue and Niagara Boulevard. The streets in the area are narrow, with little room for parking. (Kevin MacLean photo)

While the traffic and crowding concerns of Chautauqua residents certainly have "some merit" and will be examined, the town's interim chief administrator is doubtful that limiting Shakespeare Avenue and Niagara Boulevard to one-way traffic is the best answer.

"We're willing to take a look at what they're asking for, but I don't think conversion to one-way streets makes sense at this point," Sheldon Randall said in an interview Tuesday.

But, "we think there's definitely some merit in some of their concerns," especially regarding parking, he said.

Making a main thoroughfare one-way might just move the problems elsewhere, he said, though he noted the town will consult its traffic planning specialists for input about the proposal.

"Typically if you're converting streets to one-way you're just pushing traffic to other streets. We'd have to be concerned how that would impact other residents," he said,

"We saw that this summer when we tried to close down Queen Street" and traffic was bumper-to-bumper on side streets as a result.

"The traffic needs to go somewhere but we don't want to just be pushing the problem to another street."

Looking to 2021, he hopes the high volumes of visitors experienced in Chautauqua this summer won't recur. "We'll eventually see the end of COVID and travel restrictions and things like that. I think people will find other things to do," Randall said.

"But it doesn't mean we're not going to look at addressing some of the issues that we're currently having," he emphasized. "We want to be sure we're doing the right thing."

NOTL bylaw officers were busy in Chautauqua this summer. Since May 1, they have issued 261 parking tickets in the area, at least half of them on Niagara Boulevard, where there are five free one-hour parking spots, town statistics show.

Niagara-on-the-Lake has an arrangement with Honk Mobile, a parking app that allows online tracking and payments. Randall said the municipality will investigate whether the mobile app can help resolve some of the area's parking problems.

"Our staff are going to take a look at different options for parking restrictions in the Chautauqua area. We're also going to reach out to residents for further input and bring some of that information back to council with our recommendations." 

Whatever changes are made will have to be implemented for next summer, he suggested.

He said staff are considering using the town's Join The Conversation platform to encourage residents to offer feedback and ideas.

This summer, all of the park areas along NOTL's waterfront were crowded, he said. 

But he said he understands the frustration of Chautauqua residents, a small, quiet community with narrow streets running off Circle Street. He also  acknowledged, thanks to promotion on social media and elsewhere, it is widely known that "if you want to see an awesome sunset, Ryerson Park is the place to go."

"A lot of people are coming into town from outside the Niagara area looking for something to do. The border not being open, people are looking for things to do and finding themselves in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and they're enjoying our parks."

Looking ahead to next year or whenever COVID-19 restrictions end, he thinks people will find other places to visit.

Visitor numbers have remained pretty steady all summer, he said. On the Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, a total of about 12,000 vehicles were counted entering Old Town via Mississagua Street and Queen's Parade.

That's about on par with other recent weekends, including the first weekend of summer, when the province had just entered Stage 2 of the pandemic recovery. Town stats showed 12,800 cars entered Old Town on that June weekend.

"I think when we get back to some sense of normal, I think we will see less traffic," Randall said. "But, again, I don't have a crystal ball." 
 

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