The City of Greater Sudbury Operations Committee unanimously approved extending the Elm Street parking pilot during a committee meeting on Oct. 5.
The project which began in October 2012 includes 18 metered, short-term parking spaces between Lisgar and Elgin Street.
Despite staff's recommendation to cancel the pilot project on account of transportation safety concerns, the operations committee was impressed by a presentation from Downtown Sudbury's Jeff MacIntyre which outlined the benefits of the parking spaces.
“For quite some time Elm Street has been very hard for business owners to be able to rent space and to get interest in,” said MacIntyre.
“That interest has changed drastically in the past year since this parking has been enabled and the breadth of businesses on Elm Street all agree that this parking has been essential to their businesses and it's become an essential part of being able to do business.”
According to MacIntyre's report, the number of complaints surrounding the parking spots has dropped from 25 in its first year down to just one this year and the usage has increased from 35 per cent to 62 per cent.
The traffic delays have been noticeable as well with eastbound travel time increasing by 36 seconds and westbound by 24 seconds.
These delays and traffic buildup have created some obstacles for the city's director of roads and transport services, Dave Shelsted.
“The city has been working on traffic signal timing to avoid the queueing of vehicles into the rail crossing,” said Shelsted. “The complaints about these parking spots are mainly about traffic congestion and safety.”
During the course of the pilot, 356 tickets were issued for parking at an expired metere, while 341 tickets were given out for parking illegally, as the spots are not available during morning and evening rush hours.
Coun. Joscelyne Landry Altman spoke in favour of the parking pilot, citing an increase in pedestrian safety.
“I'm most impressed with the reduction in speed which makes it safer for pedestrians,” she said. “I'm glad that businesses have been able to prosper on Elm Street.”
Staff's report indicated that there have been three collisions in the area of the parking spots between October 2013 and July 2015.
In the first collision, an eastbound vehicle in the curb lane was cut off trying to change lanes and rear ended a parked vehicle.
In the second collision, an eastbound vehicle attempted to change lanes east of Elgin Street and struck an eastbound motorcycle in the left lane. In the third collision, an eastbound vehicle was rear ended while slowing down just east of Durham Street.
“There have been three collisions in two and a half years, and well, we have collisions all across the city,” said Coun. Evelyn Dutrasic.
“I'm really impressed with the impact it's having on retail businesses and to be a viable community to collect taxes from businesses that have clientele and are making profits and eventually might be hiring more people. Security is part of my philsophy but I also believe in entrepreneurship and making a difference in our community so that people can have access to our businesses.”
MacIntyre followed up, suggesting that anecdotal evidence has shown that en masse, pedestrians feel safer on that stretch of road.
“Between the barrier that the parked cars provide and the slowed traffic, people definitely feel safer,” said MacIntyre.
City staff, along with the operations committee and MacIntyre all agreed that the extension of Ste. Anne Road is an integral piece in the success of the Elm Street parking spots, as it will ease traffic flow on a street that is not made for the type of traffic that it sees.
“The big thing that needs to get done is for that Ste. Anne Road extension to get built but also improvements need to be made to the College Street underpass,” said Shelsted. “Currently the clearance distance to get under there is not sufficient for truck traffic, and approximately every two years a truck strikes that bridge.”
MacIntyre indicated that less cars means more people and higher traffic volumes makes people less willing to walk and enter stores.
“Having a highway bisect a downtown is not benefiting anybody,” said MacIntyre.