The City of Nelson’s plans for a transit hub on the 300 block Victoria Street returned to council on Oct. 26 with a few changes and with some local businesses still not entirely satisfied.
Last year, a number of business owners in the vicinity of the intersection of Victoria and Kootenay Streets expressed concerns about the plans.
So the City of Nelson and BC Transit, while declining to abandon that block for the transit hub, went back to the drawing board on the issues of parking, loading zones, and a planned public washroom.
Tania Wegwitz of Watt Consulting Group presented the following changes to city council on Oct. 26.
• The public washroom will be located at the Victoria and Stanley intersection by the library and the police station, away from the concerned businesses who were worried the washroom would become a hangout for homeless people.
• Buses will be clustered closer to that intersection as well, away from the location of the businesses.
• The number of parking spaces lost will now amount to 17 rather than the originally planned 22.
• A new proposed loading zone will be created on the east side of Kootenay Street near Victoria Street, to replace current zones on Victoria.
• Parking space numbers have been restored in front of Kootenay Medical Centre at 601 Kootenay St. The previous version of the plan would have seen parking losses there.
Wegwitz said there are still detailed discussions to be had about the location of a mid-block crosswalk, loading zone location, and the location and design of passenger shelters.
The transit hub is an effort by the city to encourage and increase transit ridership by making transit more convenient and attractive, thereby reducing the number of cars and greenhouse gas emissions. The transit system has outgrown the current Ward Street location because of an increase in the number of buses, according to city planners.
Contacted after the presentation at city council, Michael Garbula, owner of Thor’s Pizza at 303 Victoria St., said the proposed new loading zone area is unworkable because it is too small, and he said he is still concerned that the transit hub will cause parking problems in the area.
Justine Langevin, owner of El Taco at 306 Victoria St., told the Nelson Star she agrees with Garbula that the proposed loading zone area is too small, pointing out that most businesses use their alley for large-truck deliveries but that neither El Taco nor Thor’s has an alley.
She said moving the washroom to the library end of the block and clustering buses at that end makes sense. Langevin added she is glad to hear that the existence and location of a crosswalk is still up for discussion.
Langevin and Garbula, along with 300-block resident Dinah Stanley, agreed that in two Zoom calls held on Oct. 19 and 20 with local businesses, the city and BC Transit informed them of the changes listed above but did not ask them for their opinions or their collaboration in problem-solving.
That opinion was shared by Craig Sully of Kootenay Health Services at 602 Kootenay St., who said there has never been effective consultation with business stakeholders since the project was first proposed. He said he rejects the need for a transit hub in a small and congested downtown like Nelson.
Stanley said she agrees with the changes to location of buses and the washroom but still thinks there are unsolved questions about loading zones, crosswalk, and parking. Stanley’s house is set back from the street with a large front yard, and she says she has some safety and access concerns about her front yard being considered public by people at the bus stops.
At the Oct. 26 council meeting, Councillor Cal Renwick said he took part in both Zoom meetings.
“I appreciated what they had to say,” he said, “they were concerned, but they were very respectful, they were concerned about their particular case. But most of them, or it seemed like all of them, they like the idea, they like the concept. I don’t think any of them said I don’t want this to happen here … Hopefully we can get the crosswalk and the loading zone figured out and everyone will be relatively happy.”
Mayor John Dooley, who also participated in the Zoom meetings, said the consultants did a good job of listening to people’s concerns.
“This is an exciting project, another step forward for our community,” he said, “and an upgrade for our transit users … making it comfortable, making it simple and making it regular for people to take transit as their first option, not their last one.”
The next step is for the city to create a business case in order to apply for an infrastructure grant that would fund the project. If this is successful, detailed design will begin next spring.