Last year, Kristian Curran and his wife lived though their first full winter as downtown homeowners. Curran also lived through his first experience with the downtown winter parking ban. Abiding by the ban, which does not allow parking on downtown streets between 1 and 7am, Curran moved his car off of Maynard Street street every night and into a nearby parking lot, all in the name of aiding municipal snow removal.
But throughout the entire winter, Curran can remember only one instance when his street received a proper end-to-end clearing.
“It was about 6 o’clock in the afternoon,” recalls Curran, “and they came around with a truck and a bullhorn and asked people to come out and move their car. People did it, so I guess it worked. But all of last winter, we had move our cars for the parking ban, and the only time they did clear our street once was outside of the winter parking ban.”
This winter, frustrations over the parking ban have been fueled by the unusually mild weather.
“In the one sense, are in the wrong; they shouldn’t be parking there because it says in the books that you shouldn’t be parked there until the end of March,” says Curran. “That said, when you haven’t had snow for two weeks on either side of getting your ticket, it’s pretty hard to swallow.”
On February 2, Curran and a small group of other downtown residents made a presentation to the Peninsula Community Council, outlining objections to having a blanket parking ban in the downtown area.
Sue Uteck, councillor for district 13, shares some of their frustration.
“This is something we’ve hit on every year. Sheila Fougere, Dawn Sloane and myself have been asking since I was a councillor in 1999,” says Uteck.
In the past, city council has recommended to scrap—or at least make changes to—the existing parking ban. However, when it comes to the parking ban, the municipal Traffic Authority has the right to overrule council’s recommendations.
Downtown councillor Dawn Sloane sees the problem as multi-faceted. First, the blanket ban doesn’t allow any discretion based on weather conditions—tickets are handed out from January to March, regardless of how much snow is on the ground. The second problem, according to Sloane, is one of enforcement—when there has been a major snowfall, offending cars are rarely removed by the city, which, she says, makes the ban ineffective.
“Unfortunately, they just stick tickets on the car and don’t bother enforcing it at all. I’ve hardly ever seen them tow a car. Then you’re stuck with these mounds of snow from where the car used to be,” she says. “It gets to be really frustrating and annoying. Especially for people who see someone that has parked for free and gets away with not having to deal with this. At worst, they might have a ticket, but that’s it.”
From 1999 to 2001, according to a report from the city’s Traffic Services, the city employed a “common sense” policy that focused on strong enforcement only “when winter maintenance operations are underway.” The report later states that “regrettably, this has not worked,” citing “uncertainty by the public as to when they can park on the street and when they can’t” and “inconsistency of enforcement” as two of the main problems.
Sue Uteck doesn’t believe that a conditional ban would be too confusing or difficult to implement.
“We’re Haligonians. We have the highest waste diversion in the country, and you’ve got to pick up the schedule and figure out what day it is for the waste program,” she says. “I’m just saying that I’m sure that we could get a schedule—much like what they have in Montreal and Ottawa, where you move the cars from one side of the street and then to the other on different nights. I would have no problem with trying to do something like that.”
Uteck doesn’t expect the issue to come up again until the city formulates its spring budget. Dawn Sloane hopes to revisit it even sooner.
“The Regional Plan is coming to council in the next couple of weeks, things like winter downtown parking ought to be addressed.”
To view a winter parking petition started by Dawn Sloane, visit: www.ipetitions.com/campaigns/On_Street_Parking/