By Maria Almenoar
MOTORISTS are cheering the fact that the road-level pedestrian crossing between the newly opened Ion Orchard and Wheelock Place is gone.
No more hordes of pedestrians and stragglers crossing Paterson Road means no more vehicular congestion along Orchard Road.
But shoppers, herded into an underpass now, are still finding their way from Ion Orchard to Wheelock Place or vice versa - and most grumble that it is not easy. Although they cross Paterson Road more safely now and in air-conditioned comfort, they are finding the lack of prominent directional signs a problem.
And Far East Shopping Centre, next to Liat Towers, also bemoans the change. Traffic to this old mall has slowed, say its tenants, who blame it on the underpass for keeping shoppers underground.
The Paterson Road pedestrian crossing between Ion Orchard and Wheelock Place was replaced at the end of July with the underpass linking Ion Orchard's Basement 2 to Wheelock Place's Basement 2.
The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the change was needed because the road-level crossing on Paterson Road had become a safety hazard.
Pedestrians were continuing to cross the road even after the 'red man' appeared on the crossing light, causing traffic to build up along Orchard, Paterson and Scotts roads.
The LTA said: 'With the opening of the underground crossing facility, pedestrians have been able to cross Paterson Road safely without having to rush to beat the crossing time given to pedestrians.'
It also noted that the queue of vehicles on Orchard Road waiting to turn right into Paterson Road has been slashed by 70 per cent, and along Paterson and Scotts roads by 20 per cent.
Photographer Alex Wee, 36, spoke for most drivers who have seen the improvement to the traffic flow at the junction.
He said the pedestrians' habit of crossing even when the 'red man' was on made the turning 'nearly unusable', but now, without those stray pedestrians, traffic flow had improved significantly.
But pedestrians coming out of the Orchard MRT station into Basement 2 of Ion Orchard and who, for example, want to get to Wheelock Place, are getting confused because of the lack of bold signs pointing the way.
Housewife Annie Tan, 57, who was shopping at Ion Orchard yesterday, said: 'The signs are too small, and I am not sure I am going in the right direction.'
Engineer Ho See Howe, 30, said the underpass made for a longer walk than the original crossing, but the air-conditioning was a plus. 'It is a bit of a detour, but you get to check out the shops, and it does shade you from the elements.'
Meanwhile, Far East Shopping Centre has appealed to the LTA to reinstate the crossing because pedestrians have been bypassing its shops, which depend on walk-in customers and tourists.
Mr G. Gulam of Feyazi Money Changer on the first floor said his business has shrunk 40 per cent. 'Once they are underground, they will continue to stay underground. They won't bother to come in this direction,' he said.
But Mr Colin Tan of real estate consultancy Chesterton Suntec International said reinstating the road-level crossing is unlikely to boost the old mall's business because 'what is hitting them is low tourist arrivals'.
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