Reducing Lanes on Main Street a Bad Idea

A similar idea has been sold to other cities, resulting in less downtown business activity

By Fran Tabor

I read recently that the Kalispell City Council wants to undue the advance made in the last century and revert to what was done before Main Street/Highway 93 was widened. A similar idea had been sold to other cities, resulting in less downtown business activity. I think it will be as bad for us has it has been for Billings.

My small store once had only front diagonal parking. People pulled in –easy – then backed out into traffic. Harder. Three years ago I spent a lot of money buying the parking lot in back of my building and adding a backdoor. The increased repeat business to my store paid for all that money spent. Every week we are told “The only reason I didn’t shop here more often is because I hated backing out of your front parking.”

Backing out of my front parking is much easier than it will be out of the proposed diagonal parking on Main Street – the same diagonal parking old timers were thrilled to ditch. Why is it easier at my store? The “sidewalk” space between my front parking and the street makes it easier. The sidewalk gives room – most of the time – to back up parallel to the road and then ease into traffic. Diagonal parking on Main Street will not have that extra space.

Low traffic towns, like Polson’s Main Street, and slow traffic areas, like parking lots, diagonal works great. It did not work great for my store on Center Street. How can it be anything but worse for every Main Street business?

What will encourage downtown pedestrians? More overhead pedestrian bridges that will also add value to the buildings used for them. All downtown workers learning why the best parking should always be reserved for customers.

Sidewalks all the way from homes to the downtown.

In my stroller-pushing days I resented how many times my children and I were forced to walk in the street. Kalispell spent money on guaranteed-to-fade colored sidewalks, but still doesn’t care about small children walking to school on streets without sidewalks.

Fran Tabor, owner
A-1 Vacuum, Kalispell

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