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The downtown bulbs and debunking 8 myths about them

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POSTED May 3, 2009 1:02 a.m.
The traffic bulbs downtown don’t exactly give everyone the warm fuzzies.

It is time, however, for people to give up the ghost – especially downtown merchants – when it comes to demanding they be ripped out.

Here’s why.

MYTH NO. 1: The bulbs are killing business by eliminating parking.

It’s been more than four years since the bulbs were put in place. Name the businesses that went under because parking spaces were eliminated in the 100 block of North Main Street. The Mexican market? It doesn’t count. It was there for less than two years. Competition from Super La Altena Market is what did them in. Tammy’s Baby Shoppe is still ticking because they offer a unique product and have outstanding customer service.

MYTH NO. 2: The bulbs cause congestion on Main Street.

Really. If you brought back parking there would still be congestion as there would only be one through travel lane in each direction.

MYTH NO. 3 The bulbs create dangerous delays for emergency equipment.

The police learn to skirt downtown as do the fire department when they respond to emergencies that aren’t downtown. The ambulance district made a conscious decision to locate where it did some 22,000 Manteca residents ago although it certainly was better than its previous location a block away from Main and Yosemite near the back of the present-day Kelley Brothers Brewing Co. The city’s population has increased 33 percent. Traffic on the Main Street corridor is up. Without bulbs and having parking instead won’t make it a free pass for emergency vehicles.

MYTH NO. 4: Eliminating the bulbs and not allowing parking to create four lanes on North Main would improve traffic flow.

Partially true. It might eliminate traffic back up into the Center/Main intersection but it would not significantly improve traffic movements. The way to do that during peak periods is to eliminate traffic light sequences. One way streets on Yosemite and Center would eliminate two turn movements to allow a longer green light for Main Street traffic. That, of course, is a no-starter since the only things that has prompted more myopic responses than the bulbs in the past 30 years downtown are the pavers and proposals to place one-way streets through downtown.

MYTH NO. 5: The city can’t get anything right, just look at the pavers and the street trees.

Speaking of pavers, this is a myth that has quietly died thanks to the fact the city finally did get it right in both cases. For years, the city took hits they deserved not for just once but twice putting in pavers incorrectly as well as trees. It’s been 10 years since the pavers – set in sand – have been in place. No problems. No uplifting pavers. It is just a nice visual improvement over dull, black asphalt that adds to the downtown ambiance. It is the same story on the trees. They were done right the last time around and it shows. As an added note, many of the same people leading the charge against the bulbs downtown also didn’t like the street lights, traffic lights, and streetscape improvements. Go figure.

MYTH NO. 6: The bulbs make it difficult for customers to park on Yosemite Avenue.


Is it the bulbs or is it the traffic volume? You could argue the bulbs help by creating more spaces where you don’t have to worry about hitting another vehicle as you maneuver in and out. Most customers by far use off-street parking to patronize downtown merchants. Of course, creating more off-street parking is problematic if you’re going to keep beating up the people who need to help you – elected leaders – over the bulbs.

MYTH NO. 7: Traffic is heading the wrong way on Maple Avenue.


Really. Four years ago it was a common occurrence for people waiting to turn left off Yosemite Avenue onto Maple Avenue to back up traffic past the railroad tracks.

MYTH NO. 8: Moving traffic faster through downtown will get more people to shop there.


Try again. Give them reasons for going downtown. Tipton’s does. Kelley Brothers Brewing Co. does. Janis Music does. The Silver Teapot does. The Post Offices does. Athens Burgers does. Library Park events do. The Business Improvement District proposal is about creating a funding mechanism to build on the drawing power of the farmers market and creating year-round events that are conducive to the business climate for restaurants and specialty stores.
Say what you want about the bulbs, but at th
e end of the day they may actually be the lesser of a repertoire of evils. The key is to build upon the bulbs and make central Manteca an attraction 24-7 for shopping, dining, entrainment, and living.

Tearing out the bulbs is taking a giant step backwards.
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