The contentious issue of dealing with broken parking meters downtown came up at the city council meeting again Monday evening.
The city released a detailed plan, and voted unanimously to implement it.
It’s called timed free parking zones – the city has designated some areas downtown as two-hour free parking zones, and other areas as four-hour free parking zones. Drivers who park longer than the allotted time will be ticketed.
Coun. Debbie Hanlon said signs to that effect will go up as soon as possible, but may take some time. She said people will not be ticketed for going over the allotted time until the signs are installed.
It’s a temporary solution to encourage parking turnover until new parking meters, pay-by-phone apps, and pay stations start to get phased in next year.
The plan came to fruition after the city received backlash from its initial plan to immediately implement ticketing for people parked longer than two hours at broken meters.
The city has since sought feedback from some downtown business owners, the Downtown Advisory Committee, and Downtown St. John’s.
“What we’re trying to do is offer some much-needed parking relief for the businesses downtown, especially with the Christmas season upon us,” said Hanlon.
“We’re not doing this for any other reason – no other reason at all – except to help the businesses right now.”
Coun. Hope Jamieson said she heard from a lot of downtown business owners who said December is when they make their money, and the broken meters are affecting business.
More than 50 per cent of the city’s parking meters are missing.
Jamieson said business owners told her the city can’t wait until next year to address the problem by implementing new parking meter systems – they expect something to be done now.
“While this is not that perfect solution that we’re looking towards in the future, I think that this will see the positive ramifications for the businesses who just need to get through this season,” said Jamieson.
She also said some people wrote to her with concerns that wheelchair parking spaces should be made four-hour zones – that suggested change will go back to the transportation department for review.
Jamieson said others asked her to add parking spaces at the top of Prescott Street to the timed free parking list.
That suggestion will also go back to the transportation department.
Hanlon said downtown employees bullied her
When the city initially released a plan to ticket people parked more than two hours at broken meters, Hanlon said downtown workers were the main culprits, and she received backlash for saying “shame on them.”
Hanlon acknowledged those employees expressed their frustration to her.
“One thing that came out of the early announcement that this was going to happen was, well – I’d call it bullying – but the amount of frustrated emails and texts and personal phone calls that I got from younger people, it seemed a lot of them were food and beverage workers, and like they said, ‘We just don’t have the money. We’ve got cars and we can’t afford to park there all that long,’ so that’s a glaring issue.”
Coun. Maggie Burton said those are the people who are particularly vulnerable to parking issues.
Burton said she is concerned about finding a way to encourage spaces for downtown workers so working downtown is actually affordable for them.
To that end, Burton and Hanlon have requested a meeting with parking garage owners to see if they can do something to help those workers.
However, Hanlon said that meeting likely won’t happen until the new year.
List of timed free parking zones
A few current four-hour zones will be changed to two-hour zones, including Freshwater Road near Leo’s and Ches’s restaurants, Harvey Road across from Tim Hortons, and Water Street from Prescott Street to Gill’s Cove.
The other two-hour zone will be Duckworth Street from Cochrane Street to Cavendish Square.
The following will be made four-hour free parking zones: George Street from Springdale Street to Waldegrave Street, Lemarchant Road from Pleasant Street to Lime Street, Cavendish Square, Cathedral Street, Church Hill, Duckworth Street east of Cavendish Square, and New Gower Street west of Springdale Street.