Drive-thru ban mulled by cities

Rebecca Turcotte, Windsor Star

Published: Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Move over fries, burgers and coffees. More drive-thrus are popping up — this time for picking up prescriptions and withdrawing cash.

Now many Canadian municipalities are pondering whether they should ban new drive-thrus, in an effort to cut down on the emissions idling cars emit. But Windsor council isn’t likely to put a halt on doing business through the car window.


City council voted in 2004 to restrict new drive-thru restaurants from being built in residential areas, the downtown and business improvement areas. The bylaw also says drive-thru lanes must be at least 15 metres from a residential dwelling, and there must be a noise barrier installed.

“There was an anti-idling bylaw passed, which was in an obvious conflict with drive-thrus,” said Hunt. “There were also residents that were concerned with drive-thrus operating 24 hours and after dark.”

Cities in Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia have also debated the issue — but so far no jurisdiction has banned drive-thrus.

The issue is sizzling in London, where a proposed bylaw restricts new drive-thru businesses in various zones, including downtown and commercial business districts.

More than 200 people attended a city planning meeting to discuss restricting new drive-thrus last week. The meeting was rescheduled because the the size of the crowd breached fire codes.

“Industry was looking forward to responding to concerns, and getting the facts out there about drive-thrus,” said Michelle Saunders, who travelled from Toronto to represent the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association at the meeting.

The industry association points to an environmental study it commissioned that shows drive-thrus don’t cause more vehicle emissions.

“It’s an effective way to eliminate customer volumes,” said Saunders. “There’s no harm.

“Industry is always looking at ways to improve service times and get customers in and out so there is no need to idle in the drive-thru.”

The industry association said drive-thrus are helpful for the disabled, and parents with small children.

An unscientific study of three Windsor Tim Hortons restaurants showed that going through the drive-thru was significantly faster than placing an order at the counter.

It’s that convenience that makes drive-thrus popular, said Saunders.

“It’s customer driven. They want a convenient way to access services,” she said.


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