July 16, 2018

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Confusion continues over city's parking policy

<p>Michael Matsyk plugs a meter with change Tuesday afternoon in the Exchange District. Some parking meters in the Exchange area have new stickers on them explaining the hourly rates. The stickers offering two free hours on Saturdays are still there as well.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Michael Matsyk plugs a meter with change Tuesday afternoon in the Exchange District. Some parking meters in the Exchange area have new stickers on them explaining the hourly rates. The stickers offering two free hours on Saturdays are still there as well.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/1/2018 (194 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Parking Authority has spoken, its website has been updated, tickets have been either cancelled or refunded, but confusion over the downtown’s two-hours-free policy continues to simmer.

Jarrett Cole was heading to a restaurant on the first 100 block of King Street to meet up with a friend late last week.

When he went to pay for parking, he saw the information on the city-owned street meter indicated he’d have to pay for parking on Saturday, making no reference to the two hours of parking offered for free — a hot topic in the city in recent weeks as the parking authority was forced to deal with a public outcry over a quiet change to its enforcement practices.

The new rule: the first two hours of parking on Saturdays are free. However...

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/1/2018 (194 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Winnipeg Parking Authority has spoken, its website has been updated, tickets have been either cancelled or refunded, but confusion over the downtown’s two-hours-free policy continues to simmer.

Jarrett Cole was heading to a restaurant on the first 100 block of King Street to meet up with a friend late last week.

<p>This parking meter sticker on King St. confused one city driver late last week.</p>

RYAN THORPE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

This parking meter sticker on King St. confused one city driver late last week.

When he went to pay for parking, he saw the information on the city-owned street meter indicated he’d have to pay for parking on Saturday, making no reference to the two hours of parking offered for free — a hot topic in the city in recent weeks as the parking authority was forced to deal with a public outcry over a quiet change to its enforcement practices.

The new rule: the first two hours of parking on Saturdays are free. However...

"The nearest machine to pay was directly across the street. So I ran over to pop some change in and noticed there was no sticker indicating the complimentary free parking. On top of this, the machine looked like a new install," Cole said Tuesday. "I called 311 (to complain), but I didn’t get anybody. The line was busy. I wasn’t about to sit out there in the cold on my cellphone trying to get through."

The rules listed on the meter explicitly state people are expected to pay two dollars per hour on Saturdays between 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., without making any reference to the two hours complimentary parking (noted by a decal on downtown meters).

Given he was one of the people unfairly ticketed in December, when the parking authority quietly changed its rules and began handing out infractions, Cole was aware of recent news the parking authority would revert back to offering the first two hours of parking for free on Saturdays.

If he hadn’t been aware of that, he said, he would have unnecessarily fed the meter just to be on the safe side.

(Cole’s ticket, as well as more than 80 others, have since been cancelled or refunded.)

When reached for comment, a city spokesman confirmed 200 new paystations were put in the Exchange District between Sept. 1 and Dec. 21, but said they all had decals adhered to them indicating two hours of free parking was allowed.

"Vandalism to the paystations, including defacing and removal of decals, does occur from time to time. When such issues arise, operations staff from the Winnipeg Parking Authority re-adhere missing decals," the spokesman wrote in an email.

However, Cole said he doesn’t believe that was the case, as he didn’t see any adhesive residue or evidence a decal had been scraped away. Instead, it appeared the WPA forgot to put decals on one, if not more, of the paystations.

Cole said he feels this is most likely yet another operational oversight. And as someone who’s already been unfairly ticketed over the confusion about Saturday free parking rules, he said he is frustrated with what he described as the WPA’s continued inability to clearly communicate the rules.

"I think the WPA needs to be very clear, on the signage, on the meters, on their website. There should be continuity there. Why would they implement a policy when they can’t change their sign? Why are there meters indicating you explicitly have to pay when two hours are free?" Cole said.

"It is concerning that it is not clear to anybody. Even themselves. Who can the public talk to about this stuff? I think there should be accountability and clear communication. I think it brings to light there’s a lot of funny business taking place that doesn’t get exposed often."

The situation surrounding free downtown parking sparked outrage last month when news broke the WPA had quietly changed its rules and began handing out tickets to people for not paying for parking, despite stickers on the meters vaguely saying, "two hours free on Saturday."

The WPA later backtracked on its decision, admitting it had made an "operational failure." It said it would halt the practice for the foreseeable future, until a review of its policies was complete.

The city spokesman said Tuesday the WPA would be working to replace any missing decals from paystations in the Exchange District.

Cole, who has friends that run a boutique in the area, said free parking is vital to neighbourhood businesses.

While he hopes the WPA continues to offer two hours of free parking downtown on Saturdays, he said if it does decide to change that practice, he at least hopes the stickers will be clear about the rules.

"People in Winnipeg, if they can avoid going downtown and paying for parking, they will. This sort of stuff puts the businesses in the Exchange (District) at a disadvantage. All it comes down to is just using words on the stickers that make sense."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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