Monday, February 24, 2014

Is this what we really want for South Main Street?

This footage was gathered over a weeklong period from four 24-hour Super WaWas with gas pumps in Pottstown, West Chester, Center Square, and Schwenksville PA. The video shows motorist's confusion coming in and out of the parking lots, congested side streets, and near-constant backups at traffic lights and stop signs. This congestion and erratic driving - and the accidents that come as a result - have been dubbed the “WaWa Effect” in an article by The News Journal about traffic studies being conducted by the University of Delaware as part of a larger, ongoing project for the Delaware Department of Transportation. The study suggests an increase in new traffic patterns and erratic driving around convenience stores like WaWa, citing U-turns, running red lights, and increased accidents as a result of the influx of traffic coming and going.

Typically, engineers will claim that the proposed Super WaWa will operate largely on existing traffic patterns, drawing minimal new congestion to the areas and residential streets that surround the site. This is false, given induced demand from a greater area - which the pumps are designed to do. They also fail to address the heavy truck traffic that is expected to frequent the store for deliveries and fuel, especially during night and early morning hours.

This increase in traffic is one of the main reasons more than 1,000 residents and business owners rallied to oppose a new Super WaWa in the Borough of Conshohocken, PA. More than seven hundred letters and petition signatures were mailed to Borough Council expressing the community’s opposition to the zoning text amendment WaWa submitted for a 24-hour diesel fuel Super WaWa. Read this update on how they prevailed.

It appears we are in for a similar battle to keep Newark's downtown as a walkable, bikeable, livable community. WaWa wants to build a major gas pump facility on South Main Street, at the intersection of Apple Road, across from the Municipal Building. As in Conshohocken, we can expect a fight to the bitter end - all in the name of profiteering - against residents who are justifiably opposed.

The Super WaWa on Route 273 and Marrows Road is anything but a "neighborhood store", regardless of what its PR Dept claims. With the help of the Newark Bicycle Committee, advocates even had to enforce ADA sidewalk compliance, and a city ordinance calling for bike parking - which resulted in a useless wheelbender.

Those on foot or bike are seldom seen around these mega-pump stores, because they are a safety nightmare. Wally Hertler, however, tries for a quick fill-up at a shuttered Citgo station in Cochranville PA a few years ago.

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