Nutana resident Linda Epstein is so opposed to a proposal for bus-only lanes on Broadway Avenue, she is already making plans to move if it happens.
Epstein was among dozens who attended an engagement session Thursday by the City of Saskatoon to offer information and gather input on the city’s plan to revamp its transit system.
Many of those who turned up clearly did so because they believe bus-only lanes would harm the character of the Broadway business district.
“I believe it enough that I’m considering moving out of the area after 41 years,” Epstein said. “I believe it will destroy the area, I really do.”
Epstein said she knows of a couple of business owners — who she declined to name — that are considering moving out of the area over the bus lanes. She fears such vacancies would make the area deteriorate to the same state as when she first moved in four decades ago.
She called Broadway a “gem” that needs to be protected.
The city’s original plan to convert Saskatoon Transit to a bus rapid transit (BRT) style system included three stretches of bus-only lanes: along College Drive, Broadway and Third Avenue downtown.
The lanes on Broadway have drawn the most criticism, especially from area merchants.
Thursday’s event held in the basement of Emmanuel Anglican Church and Refinery showed three options: Dedicated lanes on Broadway, mixed traffic lanes on Broadway and rerouting the BRT lanes to Eighth Street and then Idylwyld to get downtown.
Jim Woytiuk, a commercial realtor who lives in Nutana, said three businesses that own property on Broadway were surprised when they learned of the city’s plan.
Woytiuk compared the plan for a bus station on Broadway with bus-only lanes to the city’s bus mall downtown. He pointed out 14 businesses closed and buildings were demolished because of the downtown bus mall.
“There’s no rush,” Woytiuk said of BRT. “We have much bigger priorities.”
Todd Mitchell, a University of Saskatchewan student who lives in the Broadway area and takes the bus, said he wants to see an improved transit system that includes bus-only lanes on Broadway.
“I am in the minority; I definitely see that,” Mitchell said. “If it’s not dedicated lanes, it’s not rapid, so that kind of defeats the purpose.”
Blaine Gysler, a former Nutana resident who now lives in City Park, said he’s undecided about his route preference, but he called the opposition to bus-only lanes on Broadway “incredible.”
“Everyone’s afraid of the bus mall,” Gysler said.
More than 150 people attended the first two and a half hours of Thursday’s event, more than doubling those who attended a similar event downtown Tuesday.
Chris Schulz, the city’s growth plan manager, said he witnessed a definite preference for the Eighth Street route.
“I don’t think that I’ve seen a lot of minds changed,” he said.
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