St. John's hits brakes on drive-throughs

Streams of motorists desperate for their morning caffeine gather each day at Tim Hortons drive-throughs across St. John's, with lines of vehicles routinely backing up onto busy roads.That's great news for the franchise owners, but an increasing concern for city councillors worried about the safety of drivers.

The Globe and Mail
January 7, 2009

St. John's hits brakes on drive-throughs
Alarmed by long queues backing onto busy roads, city puts moratorium on new fast-food window services
Oliver Moore

Streams of motorists desperate for their morning caffeine gather each day at Tim Hortons drive-throughs across St. John's, with lines of vehicles routinely backing up onto busy roads.

That's great news for the franchise owners, but an increasing concern for city councillors worried about the safety of drivers.

Complaints have been rising, Mayor Dennis O'Keefe said yesterday, and with residents apparently unwilling to start the day without a double-double, the council moved to clamp down on drive-throughs.

The overflow problem affects largely Tim Hortons, but at a council meeting Monday night politicians put in place an immediate moratorium on new drive-throughs. Applications will now be considered on a case-by-case basis and businesses will have to show their operations won't endanger motorists. Owners of existing drive-throughs are being invited to meet with council to suggest solutions to traffic problems.

"You have public highways being used as queuing lines and because of the danger involved that can't continue," Mr. O'Keefe said. "We've had a few fender-benders and council's fear is one of these fine days there's going to be a situation that's much worse."

He said that ticketing the vehicles blocking traffic is not currently an option because of the police resources that would be required and because it would drive customers away from successful businesses.

"You'd have to have police at every location," Mr. O'Keefe said. "Ticketing may very well become a part of the solution, but I think it has to be a solution of last resort."

He said the city would prefer to work with the fast-food chains to come up with solutions, including extra staffing during busy periods and the possibility of express lines for small orders.

In an e-mailed statement, Tim Hortons spokeswoman Rachel Douglas said the company has begun such measures.

"We have met with the City of St. John's traffic engineer on several occasions to proactively address traffic concerns and have already taken steps to rectify some sites," she wrote.

Mr. O'Keefe praised the company as a good corporate citizen, but said there have been an increasing number of public complaints in recent weeks and local reaction to council's move has been positive.

But blogger Peter Whittle sniffed at council's action. He noted that these are not new problems and that politicians approved the locations for these drive-through windows.

It was "negligent," he wrote on the site Polemic & Paradox, for council to allow these drive-throughs to be built without taking into account potential traffic problems.

"We have a legitimate problem, an inconvenience at best - a danger at worst," he wrote. "The City of St. John's is every bit as culpable as the operators of the drive-thrus, perhaps more so. Do they accept responsibility? Of course not, they blame the coffee shops and the patrons."

Other communities in Atlantic Canada have wrestled with the traffic overload brought on by vehicles lining up at popular businesses. Grand Falls-Windsor, in central Newfoundland, is considering widening a road to ease congestion on a strip that includes several fast-food businesses. And an intersection in downtown Fredericton has an official sign warning that there is no left turn into the Tim Hortons lot.


Brought to you by WikidFranchise.org

Risks: Drive-thru, Canada, 20090107 St Johns

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License