August 17, 2019

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Editorial

Put brakes on parking plan

Evening parking downtown has been limited to two hours. But should it be extended?

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Evening parking downtown has been limited to two hours. But should it be extended?

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/7/2015 (1496 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Push people driving downtown for evening events, such as concerts and hockey games, into surface lots or parkades so others dashing in and out could find an on-street metered spot. But it’s getting harder to find a lot of people — motorists, business owners, downtown enthusiasts — wholeheartedly cheering the latest plan councillors hammered together to free up street parking at night.

There was a day when Winnipeg’s downtown would have killed to face a parking problem. Today, hockey games, concerts and a blooming restaurant/bar scene are putting the squeeze on parkers.

This might have been predictable. Winnipeg, among five big cities measured, has the lowest number of both on- and (especially) off-street parking spaces per capita. Merchants are starting to get flak about patrons’ chances of finding a spot within walking distance.

Still, NHL game nights aside, there is often parking available, especially in winter, at night in the area from Portage Avenue to Broadway, between Garry and Kennedy streets — the “evening parking zone” city council is now looking at.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/7/2015 (1496 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Push people driving downtown for evening events, such as concerts and hockey games, into surface lots or parkades so others dashing in and out could find an on-street metered spot. But it’s getting harder to find a lot of people — motorists, business owners, downtown enthusiasts — wholeheartedly cheering the latest plan councillors hammered together to free up street parking at night.

There was a day when Winnipeg’s downtown would have killed to face a parking problem. Today, hockey games, concerts and a blooming restaurant/bar scene are putting the squeeze on parkers.

This might have been predictable. Winnipeg, among five big cities measured, has the lowest number of both on- and (especially) off-street parking spaces per capita. Merchants are starting to get flak about patrons’ chances of finding a spot within walking distance.

Still, NHL game nights aside, there is often parking available, especially in winter, at night in the area from Portage Avenue to Broadway, between Garry and Kennedy streets — the "evening parking zone" city council is now looking at.

It is perfectly reasonable that metered spots draw revenue when demand makes it available. And that, initially, was part of the plan of the Winnipeg Parking Authority, the special operating agency that manages civic parking assets and issues. The current free evening parking would be axed, motorists would need to pay $2 an hour for streets spots (as they do during the day) in the parking zone south of Portage.

But, last week, councillors on a civic committee opted to keep the free parking, but limit it to two hours. People would have to move their cars, or get ticketed.

Committee chairman Coun. Jeff Browaty said the move would free up spaces, creating turnover, and keep daily downtown workers from hogging spots into the night.

The revised plan is not sitting well with everyone. The plan, approved Wednesday by Mayor Brian Bowman and his executive policy committee, has come under fire from the restaurant industry. The Downtown Winnipeg Biz gave it qualified endorsement, warning against an aggressive enforcement that would simply turn people off coming downtown at night. But it’s hard to see how a hard rule on parking time limits would work without ticketing scofflaws.

Most people heading downtown at night are not running errands, and not out shopping. And unless diners are noshing at a fast-food outlet, the two-hour limit would cramp the style of many out to relax with friends.

Extending the hours of free parking — maybe from two to three — or allowing paid on-street parking for such a period would still prevent downtown workers from monopolizing spots all evening, after 5 p.m., on game nights or for concerts.

Pushing long-term parkers into parkades and surface lots makes sense. But if diners or those meeting friends for drinks downtown are held to two-hour street parking, business owners may find themselves staring at vacant streets and empty seats many evenings when there are no big events.

No one wants to go back to those days. Council, when it gets this proposal, needs to ask for better information about the potential unintended consequences of what looks to be an on-the-fly fix. At the very least, the amended plan should go to the business community for consultation.

 

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