Friday, March 18, 2011

Parking Rate Increases in Winnipeg

Sometimes I wonder if the world's so small
That we can never get away from the sprawl
Living in the sprawl
Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains

Arcade Fire

The announcement that the city will be increasing parking fees as well as the timeframe that payment will be required to be paid is likely to stir debate. The city has used the Winnipeg Parking Authority as a piggy bank for years and has not really put the money into upkeeping their parking infrastructure. And so it went with the Winnipeg Square parkade. The facility was not kept up as well as it as it should have been and was sold for a lesser value than it could have if it had been kept up. They money from the sale has been held in limbo ever since with the vague promise it will be spent downtown.

In a nutshell, the plan for the parking authority is to earn more money, reduce administrative costs and charge more for high traffic areas such as Broadway while increasing the time that payment is required. For Broadway this would mean that rates would double from $1 to $2 and the coverage would be from 8 AM to 8:30 pm. rather than 9 AM to 5:30 PM.

In a car obsessed world, many are unhappy with the state of parking. I have been hearing it pretty much when anyone mentions the downtown. They don't like paying. They don't like the parkades because they are afraid of driving in them. They don't parallel park because they aren't good at it. They don't like parking anywhere except close to where they are shopping or eating or visiting.

In districts where people are endlessly circling looking for a street parking space, it demonstrates the problem. The thought is that increasing the parking rates will make more people consider surface or parkade parking. Many economists argue against allowing free parking with one point being it hurts poor people.

People are going to react negatively to any increase in parking prices. However, removing any restrictions or price for on street parking creates a host of problems.

So what to do?

First is the recognize that regulating transportation is something that municipalities have to take some responsibility for. Even if everyone rides bikes, it can cause traffic jams and parking problems. See Utrect, Netherlands for an example.

If there were no parking restrictions of any kind around some of the hospitals, it is unlikely that there would be any parking available for kilometres.

So, is placing a price on parking the right solution for Winnipeg when it comes to the street? Well, according to some who live here, it is a surefire way to kill an area off. If we measure the exodus to the suburban mall world over the decades, it is hard not to agree. In a society where you live by the car, you die by the car.

Would it be possible for a city like Winnipeg to simply pull the parking meters and go to posted signs that listed timeframes for free on street parking? Well, the answer is yes. If the signs were well posted, unambiguous and part of a city-wide strategy that involved ticketing, towing and fines, it is possible that all the revenue lost from the meters would be recovered from allowing it to be "free."

Realistic parking times of three hours for some areas would be good. On street parking passes for overnight parking might be a revenue generator as well.

There are a few people who dislike the Winnipeg Parking Authority. Parking meters that don't work and confusion about the signs, meters or paying in general all add up to the resistance to the department.

It is probably time that a serious debate about the future of cars, parking and the city of Winnipeg was properly discussed. The discussion crosses into zoning, policing and culture and as such, needs the proper thought. We have not taken the time to do this and we should.

The city has shown that it will talk about issues from time to time. We saw that with the debate on dog breeds in recent weeks. Not everyone might have liked the conclusion that came from that debate but it was a topic well worth re-visiting.

Bring on the talk on parking in Winnipeg.

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The Great Canadian Talk Show said...

We started the discussion at ASD on Tuesday, and we'll see how good they all listen. I am at Council for 10 minutes on Wednesday morning in opposition. Your post will be referenced.

One Man Committee said...

Great points. We really need to talk about what the goal(s) of metered parking is (are). Is this about generating revenue? Is it about ensuring a certain percentage of spots are empty at any given time? Is a two-hour maximum reasonable? A comprehensive strategy would be better than jacking up the rates to address some short-term needs.

For what it's worth, raising fees is penny-wise but pound-foolish. I've heard many gripes from people who dislike popping into a parkade to visit the dentist, have lunch or go to The Bay only to get hit with a $6.00 parking fee for 2 hours. The meters are a good alternative to that - they provide economical short-term parking. Jacking up the rates will just give people one more incentive to head to Polo Park.

Getting rid of 2 hour free parking on Saturdays is also a terrible idea. At least on weekdays you're dealing with a largely captive audience of downtown workers... on Saturdays, the dwindling numbers of restaurant-goers and shoppers needs every reason it can find to go downtown, and eliminating the two free hours will be another strike against downtown.