NEARLY 800 motorists got a not-so-nice present on their windshield in downtown Winnipeg in a recent one-month period -- a parking ticket.
Winnipeg Parking Authority data show parking officers doled out 797 tickets at 143 pay stations on high-demand streets downtown and in the Exchange District between Nov. 23 and Dec. 18.
At the time, crews were working to reprogram the meters to increase hourly parking rates to $2 from $1 and adjust them to accept new loonies and toonies.
The number of tickets issued is not an unusual, said the parking authority's Colin Stewart, noting 250,000 transactions are recorded at the city's 671 parking metres every month. Stewart said most tickets in the downtown's high-demand areas are handed out for expired meters, and parking officers typically catch only a fraction of scofflaws.
In 2011, the parking authority issued 163,833 parking tickets across Winnipeg.
Stewart said ticket data show parking officers issued fewer tickets on certain downtown streets this year compared with 2011.
"You're never going to catch everybody for every parking offence," Stewart said.
In November, Winnipeg hiked hourly parking rates in the downtown and Exchange as part of a strategy to free 15 per cent of parking meters and allow nine out of 10 motorists to find a spot within three blocks of their destination without circling the area in search of a free space. Most downtown streets restrict parking to two hours, and higher rates are expected to encourage motorists to park in a surface lot or parkade if they plan on staying in the area for a longer period.
Though city staff won't have a clear picture of the effect of the increased fees until the end of 2013, Stewart said parking officers have already reported seeing more available spots.
"Where the rate went up, there's more space on the streets," he said.
Eventually, the city hopes to use parking-meter data to determine the busiest time of day for downtown meters, as the current system tracks every transaction, including the street, meter and how much time a driver purchased.
Stewart said existing data shows spots at certain meters, such as the one adjacent to the Starbucks on the north side of Broadway at Donald Street, are occupied 89 per cent of time. The parking authority does not track the most heavily ticketed meters, he said.
Crews completed upgrades to all 143 high-demand pay stations in Winnipeg's core Dec. 23, Stewart said, and will start to upgrade all other downtown pay stations to accept the new loonies and toonies.
Next April, the city will start metered parking one hour earlier at all on-street pay stations and extend downtown evening metered parking to 8:30 p.m.