A Winnipeg councillor says the city has let people down by quietly changing the policy on free downtown parking on Saturdays.
Despite blue stickers on parking meters that state, "2 hours complimentary on Saturday," some drivers returned to their vehicles Saturday and found a ticket on the windshield, sparking cries of a cash grab.
Previously, people could park for up to two hours on Saturdays for free. Now it appears the rules have quietly changed, as two hours of free parking only kicks in after the maximum paid time has expired.
"Clearly this wasn’t communicated properly. I believe the city has let people down on this. It wasn’t responsible. It wasn’t appropriate," Coun. Jeff Browaty said.
"I don’t necessarily disagree with charging something for parking on Saturdays, but I think the way they went about this wasn’t responsible. It was done deceitfully. I don’t think it was malicious, it was probably just a bad decision by someone at the parking authority."
The North Kildonan representative said he feels those who got tickets would have a good case to get their fines dismissed, should they choose to fight them. He didn’t have any insight into how or why a change in policy may have taken place.
Stefano Grande of the Downtown Winnipeg Business Improvement Zone (BIZ) said he’d like to see the city revert back to the policy of having the first two hours of parking free on Saturdays.
"We don’t want people parking and moving their cars every two hours if they are downtown all day. I think this is the intent of the policy," the group’s chief executive officer said, before clarifying the BIZ opposes the rule change.
This isn’t the first time there’s been confusion over Saturday parking rules.
In 2016, data released by the City of Winnipeg showed more than 1,700 people were plugging meters every Saturday, despite the two hours of free parking.
In an interview with the Free Press at the time, Browaty indicated the rules were not widely understood even by councillors.
He also said it was clear the city wasn’t doing a good job of informing Winnipeggers about the rules.
Now, it appears that policy has changed, but the stickers indicating two hours of free parking remain on the meters.
A city spokesman confirmed Saturday two hours of free parking only applies after the maximum, two-hour period of paid parking has expired.
He also said that policy was approved by city council in 2012.
It remains unclear if the city has just now started to enforce council’s 2012 decision.
Six months ago, the Winnipeg Parking Authority’s website made no mention of the policy.
A June 16, 2017, version of the website states:
"The Winnipeg Parking Authority offers two-hour complimentary parking on Saturdays... The two-hour complimentary parking offer applies at any time between 08:00 and 17:30 on Saturday."
Mayor Brian Bowman was asked about the situation Sunday at Siloam Mission, where he was volunteering at the shelter’s annual Christmas Eve lunch.
"I saw some chatter on social media about it. I flipped it over to our communicators today. My understanding is they’re prepping some material to go out. But I honestly haven’t had a chance to look into this yet," he said.
— with files from Solomon Israel
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.
Updated on Tuesday, December 26, 2017 at 6:30 AM CST: Edited