Burnaby Heights merchants oppose expanded HOV lane hours
A proposal to add a half hour to the Hastings Street High-Occupancy-Vehicle (HOV) lanes during morning and afternoon rush hours would only serve to hurt local businesses, according to the Heights Merchants Association (HMA).
“We believe HOV lanes belong on freeways, not neighbourhoods,” said HMA executive director Isabel Kolic in an interview.
Kolic was part of a delegation that spoke to city council recently to express concerns about the HOV plan, to extend the hours of the lanes westbound to 6 to 9 a.m., and eastbound to 3 to 6 p.m.
The proposal is one option being considered as part of a traffic calming plan for the Burnaby Heights and Capitol Hill neighbourhoods, the theory being that the HOV lanes will make Hastings Street more desirable to motorists than rat-running through adjacent neighbourhoods.
Kolic said traffic may be reduced on residential streets for a period but it’s likely to return to current levels in the long term.
Meanwhile, the loss of a half hour of street parking and the added traffic on Hastings will harm the viability of the shopping district.
“And isn’t a viable shopping district what people move here for in the first place?” she added.
To council, Kolic said many medical and professional offices on Hastings are open at 8 or 8:30 a.m., so there are businesses that would be directly affected by the change.
“Pedestrians are what we depend on. To extend HOV to 9 a.m. effectively tells pedestrians you don’t matter as much as getting traffic through the Heights quickly.”
She noted that in successful shopping districts such as the South Granville area, congestion is seen as a sign of success.
“You don’t expect to drive quickly through there.”
Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan responded at the council meeting that city staff were asked to “put everything on the table” to try and solve the longstanding traffic issues in the adjacent residential neighbourhoods.
The merchants association’s concerns would be taken into consideration as part of the traffic calming planning process, he said.