So city officials have recommended that stores in the Glebe be allowed to open on statutory holidays. This all comes on the heels of Whole Foods opening on Good Friday, last year. It sparked some chatter about opening up stores on stat holidays. A worthy debate, no doubt, but this isn’t what we’re talking about with the current proposal. We’re talking about exempting businesses in one neighbourhood.
(And they’re claiming that it’ll help tourism, because the Glebe is such a tourism hotspot.)
I’m not going to dig into the greater discussion about stat holidays. I’m sympathetic to arguments on both sides. I’m going to stick to the particular proposal, and I’m going to go on a bit of a rant.
And, you know what, I’m going to pull a bit of a NIMBY on this, because fuck special rules for different neighbourhoods.*
Lansdowne has created a giant mess in the Glebe. Sure, the park is near-dead during the week, but ever since it opened, traffic on Saturdays and Sundays along Bank Street have been horrible. On holidays, it’s often nice to have a bit of a break from all that traffic (even if I don’t really care that much about car traffic). But if there’s a demand for holiday shopping, and if there are few locations that are allowed to open, then those that do open will be quite the draw. It’s a bit unfair to focus all that traffic in one or two neighbourhoods
You know what can be nice about holidays? Getting together with loved ones, sharing a visit, sharing a meal. And you know what is often needed to facilitate such things? Transportation. Personally, I’m happy to rely on walking, biking and busing for my transportation needs (for instance, I biked my kids 12 km to my niece’s birthday party in mid-December), but we’ve built up a car-centric city, and some people rely on them.
In the Glebe, the city, rightly, limits free parking and has a lot of paid parking (I’d say they need to restrict it a little more and jack up the parking rates, but I digress). With less traffic on holidays, there’s less of a demand for parking and so parking restrictions are relaxed. There’s no way they’ll do this if there’s shopping going on. In fact, if this new policy is “successful”, I’ll bet the city steps up parking enforcement.
Now I get that this is selfish, and, to an extent, I’m willing to cop to that. (But since this is a rule that will apply to my neighbourhood and not others, I’m ok with being a bit selfish.) And it would be completely fair to argue that people could either pay for parking or find other methods to travel. That would definitely be fair, except for the level of transit service the Glebe receives on holidays.
It’s bad enough on Sundays, when a 3-year-old can walk along Bank Street from Sparks Street to Fifth Avenue without a #1 or #7 passing her. It’s worse on holidays.
And it’s not just about the bus routes that run through the Glebe, it’s about all the other routes that connect other neighbourhoods to those routes. If the city isn’t going to up the level of bus service, then it is irresponsible for them to increase traffic, potentially greatly, in the neighbourhood.
So let’s talk about opening stores on holidays, but let’s not limit it to the Glebe. If we’re opening stores here, then let’s do it in South Keys and Hintonburg, Orleans and Kanata. If there’s no reason to have stat holidays, then let’s just do away with them across the city.
*Yes, I know that there are different zoning regulations for different areas, but those rules should be specifically tailored to the area and should apply the same principles everywhere. For example: we should work on intensification everywhere, but that’s going to mean different things in different areas.