Barbican blues - Small-business operators claim improved road hurting them in their pockets
Seven months after the Barbican Road Improvement Project was completed, motorists have generally given the thumbs up to the roadway, but for business operators along the stretch, it is more of a mixed bag.
The project, in the upper St Andrew community, cost US$4.4 million and involved the widening of the road to a four-lane carriageway with a concrete median, installation of pipe culverts, new traffic signals and LED street lighting.
During the work, business operators complained that they were unable to operate as usual and suffered huge losses.
At that time, government officials argued that the business operators stood to benefit tremendously when the work was done.
But last week, several business operators told The Sunday Gleaner that the downturn in sales they suffered during the work has continued, now that it is done.
Sandra and Amoy Yap, who operate the family business, Yap Grocery, which they claim was one of the first shops opened in that section of Barbican, said sales is about the same, if not less, as their customers now have nowhere to park.
“How the road was before, we used to could park in front [of] the shop. As you can see now, the kerbside was raised and when you driving coming up on the kerb is like it wah mash up your vehicle. People that used to stop and buy say they can’t stop because there’s nowhere to park,” said Sandra.
She said people who still support her sometimes have to park at the gas station further up the road and walk to her shop as they can’t run the risk of getting a ticket from the police.
“I have a car and sometimes I have to park over next door, sometimes I just want to stop and drop off some things at the shop and I can’t stop. Police give tickets right here. Them patrol the area often. We really have a big problem with parking. I think them should make a sidewalk where people can stop and buy or something,” said Sandra.
Amoy added that people from the community who usually support the shop are having an issue crossing the streets even though there are two pedestrian crossings to get to it.
“We nah benefit because even the older people who live across the road are afraid to cross it because by the time them reach in the middle a the road, the light change. Them only give you 10 seconds on the ting and that is like a six-lane road,” said Amoy.
‘Miss Likkle’, who has operated a restaurant in the area for more than 30 years, is also having a challenge with parking. She said she is planning to sell the car she owns as she has nowhere to park it.
“It is inconvenient to me. The amount of customers that get ticket here because them stop to buy food. Even if they call in their order and stop to pick up the food, police want ticket them. Me a come from market and stop to unload the goods a my gate and police want ticket the driver,” said Miss Likkle.
Norma Johnson*, who operates a small business which sells juice and biscuits along the upgraded road, said she is also hurting.
According to Johnson, the upgraded roadway was not designed for small-business operators like her.
“It no better. More people a drive pass yes, but no increase in sales like them a talk bout. A the same people who live in the area buying from us, not the motorists,” charged Johnson.
“If you look on the road, we never have yellow line before, we have it now and so nobody nah too stop to buy because wrecker will take away them vehicle,” added Johnson.
She is also concerned about the median, which she said is posing a challenge to her customers.
“Look on the road. If you on the opposite side you will have to go all the way around getting back to me. Customers nah put themselves through that trouble, them rather go elsewhere. So if you look into it, only the people that live on this side will purchase. Nobody not going out them way to stop,” said Johnson.
That concern was echoed by another business operator, Anna Jones*, who argued that while the road development is “nice”, it is hurting her business.
JUMPING THE MEDIAN
“We love the road and the development look good, but them not even make an opening so the people them can cross. Them no cater for the disabled, children or senior citizens. If you live over deh so, you haffi jump the wall (median) fi come over yah so,” said Jones.
She alleged that persons have injured themselves going over the median.
“I see children a come from school and old people a come from church drop when them a try go over it. Them should leave an opening to cross over like them do for the big companies up top,” argued Jones.
Further along the roadway, ‘Effey’ and her son sell fruits and vegetables in a spot she has occupied for the past 30 years.
According to Effey, many persons would buy from her as they drove pass her stall daily. But since that section of the road is now a dead end, she depends on persons who turn off the road to visit her.
“It’s not actually the same way but I can say it is still good. When the traffic used to pass here we used to have a lot of people who just see the stall and stop, but now it’s persons who know that I’m here and are regular customers,” said Effey.
She said she opens as early as 7:30 a.m. and leaves when the area gets dark, because she has no light.
“I give thanks for my customers because sometimes a them all call me out a me bed. The sales is not a lot but it’s OK, so me give thanks,” said Effey.
*Names changed on request.