Old Ottawa South business owner hopes bus lane plan will ‘energize’ Bank St.

Bank St bus lane

A controversial city plan to improve public transit in Old Ottawa South has been met with criticism, but it spells opportunity for at least one business owner.

Approved by the transportation committee in August, the proposal would add cycling lanes and a northbound bus lane to Bank Street between Aylmer Avenue and Billings Bridge, which spans the Rideau River. 

Some business owners have expressed concern that traffic to their stores will take a hit, but one local cafe owner said the plan could be good news for the neighbourhood.

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Brian Montgomery, owner of Oat Couture Oatmeal Cafe at 1154 Bank St., spoke at the committee meeting last month in support of the plan. In his eyes, any “traffic-calming” initiatives in the area would be hugely helpful to business.

“I don’t want to spend energy fighting it. If we can collaborate, then that’s what I want to do,” Montgomery explained. “We have to make this neighbourhood more pedestrian- and cycling-friendly if we want to grow this part of Bank (Street) for businesses and residents.

“Bike lanes and bus lanes will have a traffic-calming effect and help to eliminate the problem of people speeding through,” he continued. “We’re not going to stop bus lanes and bike lanes and I don’t want to. I’d like more cyclists in the area and I’d like people to choose to go through Old Ottawa South.”

The bus lane would be in effect on afternoons between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m., at which time 41 parking spaces on the east side of Bank Street between Cameron and Aylmer avenues would be unusable. The plan would also permanently remove 14 on-street parking spaces. 

Just south of the busy Glebe neighbourhood, Old Ottawa South is inaccessible by LRT and, with already limited parking, some business owners are worried about what the plan could mean for their business. Due to restrictions, some say there will be no parking options available in some areas of the neighbourhood. 

Without a BIA, Old Ottawa South business owners have been left to advocate for themselves, leading to miscommunications and confusion.

Valerie MacIntosh, the owner of The Clothes Secret, a consignment clothing store at 1136 Bank St., told OBJ the removal of the parking spaces will be an “absolute business killer.”

“I think that this whole bus and bike lane (plan) has been rushed to meet some fictitious deadline,” she said in an email to OBJ. “It is going to have a very negative effect on the business, as well as the neighbourhood.”

Montgomery argues the plan could be an opportunity for a bigger discussion about parking in the neighbourhood. For example, some large business parking lots could be made more accessible to the community and the neighbourhood could consider implementing diagonal parking spots to save space, he suggested.

“The area’s parking is in the dark ages … We should really be thinking about how we park because having a car linear on a street takes up a lot of space,” he explained. “Let’s have a discussion and make that strip from river to canal just better.” 

With new businesses moving into the area, the neighbourhood is “getting energized,” he said, and improved transit will only help. 

“The practical reality is that you have to deal with the cars and deal with parking in a better way,” said Montgomery. “My perspective is that more people in buses is great and if the transit system can work more smoothly and efficiently, that’s great. 

“Anything we can do to reduce the speed of the traffic and get people to slow down, that makes pedestrians want to be in that area more. And that’s good for business.”

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