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The Argument Against Returning Cars to Main Street

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By Dale Anderson

Buffalo, NY – I can just imagine the phone call. Hey, Uncle Sam! Hey, Governor Pataki! This is Buffalo calling. We were wondering if you could spot us a little cash for something. Not much. Just $30 million or so. What do we want to do with it? Use it for the schools? No-o-o way. We want to build 195 parking places on the Main Street pedestrian mall downtown.

Now is this a great idea or what? Let’s do the math: One hundred ninety-five into 30 million. That comes out to $153,846.15 per parking place. One hundred fifty-three thousand! And that’s not even counting the cost of the gold paint for the stripes on the pavement. We’ll charge 25- cents to park there for 15-minutes and we’ll make it back in no time.

Why do we want to put cars on a pedestrian mall, where people are supposed to be walking? So we can attract some businesses to come back downtown, that’s why. The idea is that people are going to drive down Main Street, park in front of the businesses and run inside and spend lots and lots of money. It would probably help if these people were rich, so maybe we should reserve these 195 parking places for Jaguars and Mercedes-Benzes only.

Then it’s only going to be a matter of time before that part of Main Street is booming just like the other parts of Main Street downtown, the parts where we’ve already got cars and parking. And if you believe that, I’ve got some Goldome stock I’d like to sell you.

Go to the 700 block of Main Street, just north of the Studio Arena Theater. They’ve got cars on that block. They’ve got parking. What they haven’t got is stores! You can’t even buy a stick of gum. Nobody WANTS to open a store there. OK, OK, go up another block, where you’ve got your two-way traffic, and tell me THAT sleepy little stretch of pavement isn’t the Miracle Mile. The only time that block wakes up is for Sunday Mass at St. Louis Church.

But just for the sake of argument, let’s say this traffic on the pedestrian mall idea isn’t another closet full of the emperor’s new clothes. Let’s go for the long shot here and imagine that this thing actually is going to work, like say, those Thursday concerts every summer down in Lafayette Square. And you know what they do for those Thursday at the Square concerts because they’re so successful? They close off the streets. No cars. No parking. Just pedestrians.

So let’s come to our senses here. Give ME the $30 million and I’ll put where it’ll do the most good. You know what I’d do? I’d round up everybody who wants to put cars on the Main Street pedestrian mall, tie them up in strait jackets, bring in a gang of psychiatrists and get their heads examined. For WBFO, I’m Dempster Bucks. (Dempster Bucks is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dale Anderson.)

Dale Anderson is a reporter for the "Buffalo News."