Streets feel the heat

Andrew Robinson
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Proposed parking regulations criticized at public meeting

Finding a parking space in downtown St. John’s can be a challenge at the best of times, but it seems to be getting even harder. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Proposed changes to downtown parking regulations in St. John’s received plenty of criticism at a public meeting Tuesday evening at city hall.

The proposed amendments come from a study that was prepared for the city by consulting firm IBI Group in 2009.

Sharon Horan of the St. John’s Board of Trade wondered why the city failed to follow through on several recommendations made by IBI in its study.

A park-and-ride system to transport workers to the downtown area was one such recommendation she suggested the city should look into, along with incentives for city staff to use public transit.

“If the city were able to lead by example, this could be translated fairly easily into the private sector with the right supports,” said Horan, first vice-chairwoman of the board.

Making a similar point on setting a good example, Downtown Development Commission chairwoman Susan LeDrew wondered why the site for the proposed expansion of the new St. John’s Convention Centre will not be subject to the new parking standards.

“That’s sort of a do as I say, but not as I do mentality, from our point of view, and frankly it’s not good parking planning. The current convention centre puts great stress upon the parking situation in downtown St. John’s, and the proposed expansion will only add to that.”

A regulation for off-street parking would require retail, office, commercial, institutional and other non-residential spaces to offer one off-street parking space per 60 squares metres of net floor area. New parking standards would not affect developments approved under a prior parking standard.

Horan mentioned IBI’s suggestion of one off-street parking space per 90 square metres of net gross floor area.

LeDrew suggested a halfway figure of one space per 75 square metres of net floor area would be preferable. She also suggested a one-size-fits-all approach is the wrong way to proceed.

“It’s got to be recognized that all types of commercial developments do not have the same parking requirements. The one-for-60 proposed, while it may be in the grasp of the larger developments, will be very onerous upon the small and mid-range developments.”

Horan noted as well that the study suggests parking minimums be used only to regulate retail and office space, while the city is looking to expand those regulations to include homes, restaurants and hotels.

Across Canada, Horan pointed out, St. John’s ranks fourth in new car ownership, while provincially there are more cars registered — 633,000 —  than people.

“As well, our current municipal plan stresses the importance of attempting to reduce the number of car trips,” she said. “The parking regulations may suggest, then, regulations that specifically provide for parking and encourage car use can be sending taxpayers, developers and drivers mixed messages.”

Fred Winsor, conservation chairman for the Sierra Club’s Atlantic Canada chapter, said increasing the number of available parking spaces will only increase demand for parking in downtown St. John’s. He advocated for improvement to public transit.

“I know parking is a pain. When you go downtown and you can’t find a parking spot, you literally can’t get out of your car. You’ve got to go home or someplace else. So we have to come up with other alternatives to deal with that because we only have so much space downtown, and the major (alternative) in most parts of the world is public transit.”

Terry Chaffey, vice-president of real estate for Fortis Properties, said many of the amendments suggested are positive ones, including a relaxation of regulations to provide all parking on site. He also prefers determining parking spaces based on net floor area, which entails excluding features like elevator shafts, washrooms and utility rooms from the calculations.

However, he agreed with LeDrew that offering one off-street parking space per 60 squares metres of net floor area should be increased to 75 square metres.

He is also concerned about the displacement regulation concerning new developments that eliminate parking spaces previously established. As he understands it, the regulation would require developers to replace those spaces while also complying with providing parking spaces as required under the formula.

“This will place significant additional cost pressure on certain new developments to provide a quantity of parking that, in essence, exceeds what would otherwise be required for a similar-sized development without existing on-site parking.”

Coun. Debbie Hanlon, who chair­ed the public meeting, said a report will be prepared and presented to council for discussion. She expects that discussion will take place within the next month.

Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: IBI Group, Board of Trade, Downtown Development Commission Convention Centre Sierra Club Fortis Properties

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada

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Recent comments

  • Mohammed think like halifax
    May 09, 2012 - 10:51

    Maybe a better study would be investigating having traffic flow in only one direction on each of Duckworth, Water streets and Harbour drive. That's what they do in Halifax, 2 lanes of traffic flow in 1 direction only and parking on both sides of those lanes. You use side streets as turn-off access to the other streets. Anybody who has driven down Granville and Water street in halifax has seen how it works. There is also early morning public bus transit to the downtown core so people can leave their cars at home or away from downtown. It is not perfect in halifax, but it is much better than here and they have 400 thousand people compared to 200 thousand here.

  • sealcove
    May 09, 2012 - 10:13

    St,john,s is so backward it does not know what forward means

  • I Claim To Be A Courier Now
    May 09, 2012 - 10:07

    The City's poor handling of parking issues in the Downtown extends well beyond the commercial district of Duckworth and Water Streets. Downtown residents are required to buy a residential parking permit, 6 bucks a year. But, if you have a sign in your car front window that reads "Courier On Delivery" or "Republic of Doyle On Location" you can park wherever you like, even overnight, and never receive a ticket. I live on Gower Street and decided to test this last Summer. Printed off my own sign and have not received a single ticket in eleven months. It's only saving me 6 bucks, but it illustrates the point that City Hall has no real plan to address and enforce dowtown parking. Parking is either controlled or it is not.

  • Dan
    May 09, 2012 - 07:41

    You are asking the morons at city hall to make a sensible decision? Good luck with that, parking sucks downtown but harassing people who do go down there with ever increasing fines is the reason why many just choose to not go down there. Sorry downtown businesses but my money goes elsewhere....places where I can park in comfort and shop without the added stress of wondering about a stupid meter.

  • Lenore
    May 09, 2012 - 07:25

    I park downtown but would take the bus to work if it ran early enough. I live on a bus route but would have to wait until 9am or later to get the first run.

  • fed up with parking
    May 09, 2012 - 07:14

    To me, this is no real secret. The city doesn't want to change anything because they are robbing people blind everyday already. Why do you think they just jumped the cost of an expired meter ticket from $15 to $25. It is disgraceful on behalf of the city. I never shop downtown because you are pretty much guaranteed a ticket while you shop. It is unacceptable. Once again shame on the city and their money grabbing tactics at the expense of lost consumers to downtown vendors.