The changeover to two way traffic in much of downtown Lowell will occur at 4am tomorrow. I’ve been looking forward to the change because when it comes to downtown Lowell, doing something different can’t hurt. (Although when I tested out Appleton Street on the day it changed to two way traffic I barely avoided a head-on collision with someone who hadn’t got the word so proceed with caution while driving through downtown in the coming days).
Since the default setting on most humans is to dislike change, I’ve long thought this alteration in a traffic pattern that’s been in place will get a lot of pushback. That was evident yesterday when I posted something about this on Facebook. Here’s a sampling of the comments I received:
I’m dreading this change. See lots of head-on collisions in Lowell’s future
It’s hard to get into a head-on collision while sitting waiting in gridlock traffic
I’m so glad I moved out of downtown
UGH! I’m thinking walking to work from Pawtucketville may be faster than driving, especially once school starts in a few weeks.
I’m sorry but there were many valid reasons they got rid of two-way traffic downtown in the first place. This is a bad idea
Although the city has had a couple of informational meetings, has put a copy of the new street pattern on the DPD website, and has put lighted sign boards around downtown, this will still come as a shock to many. I sense that one shortcoming of the roll out is a failure of the city to explain the reasons for this change with sufficient intensity to help people tolerate the predictable implementation pains that will accompany it. I raised that question in the Facebook discussion and George Proakis, who left Lowell’s DPD a few years ago to become Somerville’s Planning Director offered this:
The transition will be a bit difficult, but I really think this is going to make a difference for the better in the long run, IF people give it time to work. Less circling traffic, more logical patterns, better visibility for businesses, ease of travel for visitors and newcomers and yes slower traffic are all good for downtown. I’ve been encouraging this move since 2005, and I think it is going to be a move for the better
Of course George also pointed out that this is an outflow of the Jeff Speck Plan and we all know what the City Council thinks of Jeff Speck (“what does an urban planner know about the city when he spends less than a month here . . .”). Maybe we should start a pool on how quickly a city councilor will file the motion to restore one way traffic. Forget the pool; we all know it will be at the next council meeting. But I digress . . .
While walking on Merrimack Street yesterday I did spot something that will be a real problem, one that legitimately transcends the predictable opposition to change and that’s how to deal with deliveries. The above photo, taken at noon just up from Kearney Square shows a trailer truck double parked making a delivery. I know there are designated “delivery zone” parking spots downtown but are there enough of them? Are they enforced? Besides vendors making deliveries to merchants, the world now turns of UPS and Fedex delivering packages at a feverish pace. Will those brown trucks and white trucks just stop in the single travel lane on Merrimack and Market Street while drivers run inside with packages? How is the city going to deal with that? Or as one Facebook commenter put it is the city’s plan “be the ever present “deal with it” attitude that’s pretty prevalent even now…”
The time for speculation is growing short. When we awake tomorrow two way traffic will be the reality. In the meantime, here’s a link to the chapter of the Speck Plan that deals with downtown traffic. It’s interesting reading and makes a lot of sense. Please check it out.