Tram project gives Nice headaches and hope

By Heather Botham:

It’s not easy to ignore the roaring, screeching and clanging of the sky-high machinery echoing off buildings on Nice’s usually quiet Rue de France.

The sounds are coming from the construction on the extension of the city’s tramway, a project that began about three months ago.

The construction is part of a 20-year urbanization plan to improve public transportation in the city. It was estimated in 2009 that this project would cost 770.7 million euros to implement.

With the addition of an east-west tramway, the city hopes to be able to serve 260,000 commuters daily – about two-thirds of Nice’s population.

Currently, the north-south tramway serves about 90,000 passengers per day.

However, Mme. Bogosyan, a small business owner, said she was not aware of the disruptions that would ensue outside her doorstep as she and her husband signed the lease renting the property for their new business a few months back.

“Six months ago we signed the contract and didn’t know the construction would be happening,” Bogosyan said.

The beach store, she said, having only been open since the end of May, has had a lot of trouble attracting business.

Being only one block from Nice’s popular Promenade des Anglais, this area usually has lots of tourists, Bogosyan said. She thinks the tram construction is lowering visitation.

With pedestrian and vehicular traffic being rerouted due to the large machinery taking up much of the street, Bogosyan said they have to find a way to attract business, whether it’s through advertisements or lowering prices.

“We have to do something, because we already paid for this business,” she said. “We can’t lose it all.”

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Arlette Laurenti standing in her shoe store.

Arlette Laurenti was in a similar position just over a decade ago during the construction of the north-south tramline.

Laurenti owns a shoe store on Avenue Alfred Borriglione, right next to the tracks.

“They destroyed the road,” she said. “Under this street there are huge sewers. When they made the tramway, they had to dig it up, and rats and cockroaches were crawling everywhere.”

In addition, the construction completely blocked the store, preventing customers from entering, she said. Some businesses on the street even decided to close during construction, but Chaussures Dutto stayed open.

“We’ve been here for 50 years,” she said. “We have a large clientele.”

Not only was business dwindling during construction, but customers who did come in were sometimes getting injured, she said. “Our clients had accidents walking on planks – falls, fractures, broken glasses.”

While the development caused issues at the time, the tram is very practical for commuters, she said. “It’s cheap, and it’s easy to come and go.”

In Nice, one bus or tram ride costs 1.50 euros ($1.70 US), compared to $3.08 US for a bus ticket in Toronto or $3.70 US in London. 

Despite the value for the community, she had expected more positive effects on her business, she said. “[People] don’t always stop in here. Many people are just heading straight downtown.”

Construction on the east-west line is expected to last until 2018. But Bogosyan said she remains hopeful that their proximity to the tracks will be positive for their business.

“It’s very hard with the construction right now,” she said. “Once it’s up, it will be perfect.”

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