Organizers hope changes to Canalside will help ease traffic

Posted at 5:08 PM, Aug 28, 2016

"Upwards of 100,000 people" visited Canalside this weekend, according to event organizers. That surge of people caused a massive gridlock Saturday night that had some people stuck in their cars for three hours.

Mayor Byron Brown met with Buffalo Police officials Monday addressing the traffic problems.  The city says they'll see what, if any, changes need to be made going forward.

Council Member David Franczyk wants event organizers, city leaders and emergency services to work together to be sure there can be an effective response should an emergency situation happen during one of these large events.

"We need to anticipate almost any eventuality, particularly emergency vehicles," Franczyk said.  "We don't want someone stuck in traffic and they can't get to someone with a life threatening problem.  Those are very serious issues that need to be resolved."

Buffalo Police have an emergency access plan in place for the area, should an incident occur during a major event. As the events grow and more people visit Canalside in large numbers, police say they'll constantly be reevaluating those plans.

Sam Hoyt with the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation said changes will be made to signage around Canalside before next summer. New signs will help direct traffic exiting the 190 and lead visitors to parking lots east of Canalside.

Officials hope that will help spread out the number of cars and prevent a major traffic jam like the one Saturday night.

City officials and event organizers both encourage visitors to use public transportation like the Metro Rail or use bicycles to get around the downtown area.

Social media is riddled with complaints as traffic around Canalside, which experienced three days in a row of back ups.

One viewer thanked a good Samaritan on Facebook for taking the lead and directing traffic at the Erie Basin Marina.

The only ones who didn't seem to struggle were those who found other modes of transportation.

Chief Gramaglia with the Buffalo Police Department attributes all of the traffic issues to the various activities all taking place in the same area this weekend - the Bisons game, the Kanye West concert, and, of course, the World's Largest Rubber Duck. On top of that, you still have the regular traffic from the Erie Basin Marina weekend goers.

Gramaglia says the duck was an "abnormally large draw," and probably drew a bigger crowd than anticipated. He says there was no way to gauge how many people would come down. If the duck comes back next year, police and event organizers will have a better idea of what to anticipate.

A spokesperson for Canalside said around 50,000 people had visited the area on Friday and Saturday alone.

According to police, people began calling 911 because they were stuck in traffic for so long without moving at all. Police say they shuffled manpower once they became aware of the traffic issues. More officers were added to the ones already in place, and those directing traffic at the Bisons game extended their shift and helped at Canalside and the Erie Basin Marina.

Gramaglia called this weekend a "perfect storm" of events, bringing tens of thousands of people to one place, all trying to get in and out at the same time.