By Patricia Lonergan
Officials with the Wellington West Business Improvement Area asked 830 people along the busy street how they travelled to the area, how often they shopped there and the community in which they live.
Almost half of those surveyed – 46 per cent – said they walked, while cars account for about a quarter of the traffic. Remaining visitors choose to cycle or take public transit.
“All of us were surprised,” said Randy Kemp, chairperson of the Wellington West BIA board. He noted it was the number of cyclists – 12 per cent – that was the most unexpected finding. “To be over 10 per cent is incredibly impressive for a North American city.”
The information collected by the Wellington West BIA will help the business organization and city planners address local needs, such as pedestrian safety and improved cycling infrastructure. This is particularly important given the many new condos planned or under construction in the area.
“Our neighbourhood is under intense pressure in terms of development,” Mr. Kemp said. “More and more people are coming in and there’s a limited amount of room on the streets for cars. But there’s always room for more walkers and bikers.”
Mr. Kemp said if customers within a five-kilometre radius are more inclined to walk or cycle, it not only helps build a sustainable community, but also reduces congestion.
“It’s important to encourage diversity in terms of transportation,” he said.
A pilot project is in the works to replace a parking spot at the corner of Wellington Street West and Fairmont Avenue with a bike corral that will hold 10 to 20 bicycles.
The survey is but the first in what will likely become an annual checkup, Mr. Kemp said, noting BIA members have also suggested conducting the same poll during colder months when weather isn’t as conducive to walking or cycling.
Aside from the modal split, the survey also showed that the BIA’s primary customers are within a five-kilometre radius, so marketing efforts can focus on those neighbourhoods.
“People from the area are shopping in the area,” said Mr. Kemp. “In the future, as Wellington West is intensified by new condo developments, we will see even more local shoppers.”
The situation, meanwhile, is very different for businesses along Bank Street, where a 2009 survey showed that about 50 per cent of visitors use public transit and the majority live in outlying areas such as Gatineau, Kanata and Orleans.
The trend was not unexpected, said Gerry LePage, executive director of the Downtown Bank Street Business Improvement Area. He explained there’s a workforce of about 93,000 in the area, many of whom take the bus along the Transitway that cuts through the shopping zone.
While the influx of suburban residents during the day benefits area businesses, the heavy reliance on commuters also presents challenges.
Staying downtown for dinner after work could mean a two-hour bus ride home instead of a 45-minute trip on an express route during peak hours, according to Mr. LePage.
“A huge exodus is prompted by the schedule of OC Transpo,” he said. “There’s a forced migration out of the core.”
The BIA noted it has continuously pressed OC Transpo to extend peak service for years and has even talked about a fare-free zone in the core. Mr. LePage said such a move would be consistent with the city’s objective to reduce carbon emissions.
But nothing’s changed so far and buses still run on a rigid schedule.
The area, however, is undergoing a demographic transformation. About 20 years ago, the area held 67 per cent of the city’s social housing and had an average household income of $40,000, according to Mr. LePage.
“We knew we’d have to make it sustainable through residential development,” he said.
Through various initiatives, infill has risen. There have already been 6,500 units added to the immediate area, Mr. LePage said, with thousands more to come. Those moving to the core are riding their bike, taking the bus or walking.
While the BIA is aware of emerging demographics via developers, Mr. LePage said the organization will probably conduct another survey late this year or early 2013.
SIDEBAR: How do shoppers travel to Wellington West Village?
Walk – 382 (46.02%) Bus – 100 (12.05%)
Car – 237 (25.88%) Other – 4 (0.48%)
Bike – 107 (12.89%)