Since the new East Avenue Wegmans store opened two years ago, the company has received 100 complaints — just on the parking lot.
Dan Aken, Wegmans' manager of site development, relayed that figure to the more than 60 people gathered in a meeting room last night to learn about the company's plans to improve the parking lot. Aken said that the complaints range from general safety worries and gripes about congestion to concerns about traffic speeds and frustration over a lack of parking spaces.
Another factor: the company has discovered that between 250 and 300 vehicles a day use the lot as a cut-through between East and University avenues. Between 20 and 25 vehicles were observed cutting through the lot during just one peak hour.
Wegmans officials say that the key to solving the cut-through problem is to make Probert Street two-way again. And to relieve congestion in the store lot, the company wants to add a driveway onto Probert.
I don't think anyone left the meeting happy with what they heard. Probert Street residents don't like the plan because they'll lose parking near their apartments. Some in attendance seemed annoyed that the city insists on keeping the bike lanes on Probert, especially at the cost of parking; city engineer Jim McIntosh says that the lanes are a crucial connection for cyclists trying to get from East Avenue over to Winton Road via University.
Other speakers said that the problems — few went into specifics, though one speaker said that turning radiuses are too tight — are inherent in the lot's design and that's where the company should focus.
As Aken and other Wegmans representatives responded to comments and questions, it became clear that the East Avenue parking lot problem may be intractable. Even seemingly small changes would have significant drawbacks. For example, if the parking lanes are converted to one-way travel, more cars would be forced to the front of the lot near the store, where there are lots of people walking.
But what if we, the customers, are the problem with the East Avenue Wegmans parking lot? At minimum, we're part of it. We drive too fast, we don't look where we're going (while that applies mostly to drivers, it applies to the people walking through the lot, too), we stop and hold up traffic to wait for a parking spot, and we demand every last one of the parking spots that Wegmans had to install. (And it really needs to be noted that the old East Avenue Wegmans parking lot had its own set of problems, frustrations, and safety issues, even though it had fewer spaces.)
Unless more customers start walking, biking, or taking the bus to the store, Wegmans may not be able to fix its parking lot. Customers may have to accept that.