Few would disagree that social distancing on Queen Street during the tourist season is nigh impossible.
Using the past few weeks of traffic data, picnicking and overcrowded parking lots in town and along the Parkwaymas barometers during COVID's third wave (“Stay at home lockdown”), it is safe to predict the zoo-like atmosphere in NOTL's Old Town once the lockdown is lifted.
We will be inundated with tourists like never before as they escape their stir-crazy, cabin fever syndrome.
Accordingly, it is incumbent on our elected officials to seriously consider opening Queen Street to pedestrian traffic only from June through and including October, thereby addressing the social distancing scenario and the health of our residents.
Clearly, to use the latest buzzword, we will enter a “one dose summer” with few Ontarians fully vaccinated. Different this time from the last year's street closing fiasco would be the street signage and alternate parking options – lessons learned if you will. I would propose the following:
* Signage: “Street closed. Pedestrian traffic only. All businesses are open.”
* Parking: Offer alternate paid parking at the community centre, the old hospital, the Shaw and possibly a temporary grass lot on the Commons south of the Shaw.
* The street closure and parking options would be posted on the major roads into NOTL . (Hwy. 55, Lakeshore). Revenues from the Shaw lot would be retained by the Shaw. Paid parking at the community centre would include shuttle bus transportation into town. Additionally free parking for residents would be available at the community centre.
* Masks: Mandatory indoors, but recommended outdoors on Queen Street only .
* Merchant options: Discuss with merchants the option to display their products on the sidewalk during this street closure .
We are not out of this pandemic by a long stretch and continue to be at a very high risk from the new developing variants.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnstone has been advised to slow the U.K. opening as a result of the increasing deaths from the Indian variant. We all know how that is playing out. It will be in North America soon.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero recently addressed the need to study what Queen Street should look like 10 to 15 years from now. This study is decades overdue.
The parking concerns, for example, were raised by Pillar and Post founder John Drope over 50 years ago.
In summation, numerous articles over the decades have broached the parking and tourist saturation concerns in the Heritage District.
We are not unique in these matters. It is a worldwide phenomenon. Unique to NOTL, though, is the fact we keep ignoring the inevitable and kicking the can down the road.
Inevitably, in my opinion, Queen Street will become a pedestrian mall, but as a super senior, likely not in my lifetime. However, events from future growth and development will force this no-brainer decision at which juncture the costs will have increased exponentially.
We do not need analysis by paralysis or a committee to temporarily close Queen Street – just do it. Where there is a will, there's a way .