Solving the parking puzzle

Dave Bartlett
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Vehicles sit parked on the St. John's harbourfront. Parking in the downtown area has been a contentious issue in past years, but St. John's city council is trying to address what has become a growing problem.Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Finding a place to park in downtown St. John's is not easy, particularly on a weekday, or when there's an event going on such as a hockey game at Mile One.

"I drive a large vehicle and it's just about impossible at times," Carl Cooper of Paradise told The Telegram Friday morning.

"You get your exercise when you've got to park downtown because you've got to walk to where you want to go."

Cooper thinks the answer is probably more parking garages because, as he notes, there's no room downtown without building vertically.

He said it must be hard on downtown businesses, especially this time of year when people are Christmas shopping.

"People just don't bother (to shop downtown) because they know it's going to be a bit of a gong show trying to find a spot (to park)," Cooper said.

Longtime downtown shop owner Bill Chafe told The Telegram the problem seems even worse this year.

"Customers come down here and buy a suit. We'll have their suit (tailored and) ready for them the next day," said Chafe.

"They come down tomorrow and they (drive) around and around and around and then they've got to go home, but they still don't have their suit."

Chafe agrees more parking garages are needed.

Recently, he said, a delivery truck couldn't find parking and had to stop in the middle of a nearby side street to unload the cargo for Chafe's store.

It's gotten so bad, Chafe is even thinking about relocating his business to a mall.

Kate Wilson of St. John's doesn't come downtown often, but when she does, she said it takes awhile to find a parking spot.

"I did all right today, but it can take five or 10 minutes. On a bad day, it can take longer than that," she said.

While she'd like to see more parking downtown, she would also like a better public transit system so more people can simply leave their cars at home.

St. John's council is well aware of the problem.

In 2009, the city, in collaboration with the Downtown Development Commission (DDC), hired a consultant to study the issue and recommend how to improve downtown parking. The recommendations were adopted by council in March 2010.

That study showed there was a need for about 500 additional parking spaces. At a city planning committee meeting this week, city manager Bob Smart noted with all the growth and development, that demand could already be 50 or even 100 per cent higher than it was when the study was completed two years ago.

Coun. Tom Hann is chairman of the committee. He said the problem is simple: there's not enough parking.

"But there's also all kinds of (related) issues in terms of (public) transit and the traffic issues and all of that stuff," said Hann.

Finding the solution to an already complex problem - as the city continues to grow - will be a tough road to navigate.

Downtown parking was the only item on the committee's agenda - and it included proposed amendments to development regulations to ensure future projects provide the proper number of parking spaces.

There was a lot of discussion about those changes because a number of concerns were raised after council accepted the study's recommendations last year.

"So, staff have done a lot of work ... trying to come to grips with some of the objectives and some of the concerns about the original proposal," Hann said.

"They've made some amendments to meet halfway some of the concerns that were expressed."

The amendments were approved in principle by the committee at the end of the meeting, with the acknowledgment that there may have to be further amendments later on.

The city is also negotiating agreements with two private developers to include 462 new public parking spaces at the former Woolworths building on Water Street and in the condo complex approved for the former CBC Radio building on Duckworth Street.

But Hann said that only addresses the current need.

While those deals have yet to be finalized, at the committee meeting it was stated the agreements will cost the city roughly $8.5 million.

Part 2, Monday: changing the rules

Organizations: Downtown Development Commission, Woolworths, CBC Radio

Geographic location: St. John's, Water Street, Duckworth Street

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Recent comments

  • Bill
    December 11, 2011 - 10:09

    At one time the City owned the parking garage at Atlantic Place. Now it is owned privately and closes at 6:00pm catering only to the employees of the office tower. Is the same going to happen to the new office towers currently approved?

  • Anonymous
    December 11, 2011 - 08:18

    I have given up all thoughts of shopping downtown. I feel that so many parking spots should be reserved for shoppers. Even if they were to have them designated as a one hour limit parking like you often see other places. This would at least give shoppers a chance. With so many new business offices opening downtown, it is just a given that there will be no parking spaces for shoppers.

  • Jason
    December 10, 2011 - 18:03

    Maybe instead of driving "large vehicles" like they do out in rural Newfoundland (Paradise) people should drive more fuel efficient and smaller vehicles or better yet - take public transit. the answer is NOT more parking spaces, it's less people parking and driving around these gas guzzlers by themselves and instead taking a sustainable, environmentally (and wallet)-friendly method of transportation like Metrobus.

  • Trucks Sucks
    December 10, 2011 - 17:18

    Oh poor baby! Can't find a place to park his big truck! Stop compensating for your (car) horn and get a compact as its much easier to get into anywhere!

  • Sherwin F
    December 10, 2011 - 14:41

    "I drive a large vehicle and it's just about impossible at times," Carl Cooper of Paradise told The Telegram Friday morning. "You get your exercise when you've got to park downtown because you've got to walk to where you want to go." I think this comment alone highlights one of the main problems.

  • W Bagg
    December 10, 2011 - 12:26

    water street one way, duckworth street one way (opposite direction as Water) have diagonal parking on both streets/ both sides. That would be a huge improvement. Anyone who has travelled to any modern city has seen this work in their downtown cores

  • Beebob
    December 10, 2011 - 10:21

    I moved here 38 years ago and was doing business downtown. Even then you could'nt park to deliver. The loading zones then were for anyone, not only commercial vehicle, so I got tickets for trying to do business downtown. From day one I suggested that Water st. be one way west, and the waterfront be one way east, very logical eh, cross streets be alternately one way. This would at least make getting around downtown much easier. Are they ever going to do this?? Parking, that's another story. No one, except Andy and the Council, wanted to Stadium downtown, this is not Montreal, or Toronto with mass transit, what were they thinking? Now we are stuck to pay for it and the ones responsible for putting it there, are gone scott free, not accountable. Somebody must have pulled some strings, and could somebody have benefited from that decision?? How many more years, maybe 50, before someone decides to really tackle the downtown issue.