Caroline Rigby’s letter in The Lake Report of Feb. 13, suggesting a shuttle service solution to NOTL’s parking problem caught my eye and immediately took me back more than 30 years when I likewise served on a traffic committee. My recommendation, at the time, was underground parking combined with a shuttle service, lacking, however, any explanatory data.
My thinking then had been prompted by a recent visit to historic Williamsburg Village located on the U.S. east coast. This reconstructed masterpiece remains uninhabited, while in contrast, NOTL excels as a living, thriving historic showpiece, presently being upset annually by increasing tourist hordes arriving by bus and car. The perennial problem needs a fix.
But before elaborating on a possible solution, let me illustrate, with two examples, how we observed Niagara in the ‘60s.
Back in 1960, when my wife and I as a young couple moved into our old home in Queenston Village, Niagara as it was referred to, was a quiet, sleeping town on the shore of Lake Ontario. Traffic was sparse and life appeared to be at a standstill. Shaw was but a thought in the minds of Brian Doherty and Calvin Rand.
One of the first performances to an invited audience was on the stage upstairs in the town hall. Actors in street dress sat on stools in a line on stage and read their lines. The Shaw’s theatre wasn’t built until 1973.
To emphasize the town’s sleepiness again, I recall writing my master’s degree paper on “The Early Schools of Niagara.” The source of much of my research came from a pile of books and booklets piled in one corner of a room in our NOTL museum. The material wasn’t catalogued or shelved.
Again, back to the point of underground parking. First, all visitor traffic entering town needs to be diverted to a parking area by installing electronically operated barriers (gates, lifts, bars, etc.) at strategic locations entering the town at John Street, Queen’s Parade, the east extension of Front Street, Niagara Stone Road and Lakeshore Road. Next, supply every resident vehicle and all service, town and emergency vehicles with an electronic eye to allow free movement in and out of town. This system should work as simply as your automatic garage door.
Secondly, at the same time, construct underground facilities at the town entrances, the Commons and Fort George, land just north of Jackson-Triggs Winery, military land off Lakeshore. A connecting road between Queen’s Parade and two other parallel roads would provide an entrance to each parking garage. Similar services could be constructed at the other two town entrances.
Undertaking these developments would appear to handle the traffic situation. Returning the soil and plantings would return the area to normal use, especially the Commons and Fort George land.
I am sure that many skeptical readers will be yelling, “But how in h— will we pay for this?” Suggestions might be to charge each automobile owner for the installation of the electronic eye mechanism and include that charge on everyone’s tax bill. i.e. the program here should be expanded to all citizens of Greater Niagara (Queenston, St. Davids, Virgil, etc.). They should not be inconvenienced in any way.
Remember in this plan that every vehicle will pay a parking fee, not only the few who use the town parking metered areas. Consider that most visitors come for a few hours or the whole day. As an example, the area hospitals charge $2 or $3 per hour. Now enter into your calculation that by our chamber’s estimation, 2.7 million visitors come to NOTL annually and that figure will continue to grow.
I am sure that such a proposed traffic solution will raise many eyebrows and that it will stir up more discussion – and perhaps result in some meaningful committee recommendations.
My half a century of waiting finally may well come to an end..