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You know the drill. You’ve got 15 minutes to spare. You drop your passengers off at the stadium/restaurant/nightclub and look for a place to park.

Good luck. The IceCaps are in town tonight, and whether you’re going to the game or not, they have already sealed your fate.

Nothing on New Gower, Duckworth or Water streets. You try Harbour Drive all the way to Atlantic Place. Nothing.

George Street west? You prowl the smaller streets to no avail. In the end, you’re forced to park a 15-minute walk away from your destination. So much for being on time.

Welcome to the wonderful world of downtown parking in St. John’s.

It’s a common big-city problem, but residents here don’t think they should have to put up with it. To some extent, they have a point.

In Toronto or Vancouver, parking woes are common and parking fees can be enormous. Here, you can park under the Delta hotel for about $10 — if it’s not full. But few other options are available.

On Monday, St. John’s development committee chairman Tom Hann asked council to adopt new parking recommendations in its municipal plan. Councillors agreed to call a commissioner’s hearing on it next month.

But the topic du jour was regional transportation — or rather the lack thereof.

St. John’s has always had a parking problem — and likely always will. It’s an old city with narrow streets and a lot of hills. The few parking solutions that have been found can’t keep up with the growth.

Today, the city is counting on about 500 new parking spaces coming on stream, but even that won’t solve the problem.

As for expanding public transportation to the outskirts, the idea is shot down every time it comes up. No amount of exhortation will move mayors surrounding the capital city to come on board. Their residents just aren’t interested, they say — it’s not worth the money.

And yet, a study has found more than 40 per cent of cars parked downtown at any given time are driven by out-of-towners.

"If our neighbours don't want to participate in a regional system and participate in the millions of dollars it's going to take, then maybe the province has to issue some type of levy to start taxing the region to pay for it," Hann suggested.

Let’s hope Hann’s not putting too many eggs in that basket. Experience has shown the province has no stomach to get involved, either.

A lasting solution will only come if regional leaders finally decide to stand up and take some initiative.

All the mayors of Mount Pearl, Paradise and C.B.S. seem interested in right now is mindlessly pandering to the current whims of residents.

This head-in-the-sand apathy has gone on too long.

 Towns wrangle tirelessly over every shared service that comes up. In the end, ironically, this may just be what will force some form of amalgamation in the region.

And it won’t come a day too soon.

Organizations: IceCaps, Delta hotel

Geographic location: Atlantic Place, Toronto, Vancouver Mount Pearl

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Recent comments

  • Ed Power
    April 26, 2013 - 19:22

    Welcome to the wonderful world of St. John's City Council and downtown business planning and development. "Let us concentrate everything in the downtown core, and then blame everyone who is forced to frequent the downtown core for work, entertainment and sporting events for the problems that we have created. Let us not erect office towers and stadiums in the better serviced and more accessible newer areas of the city. No, verily I say unto you, let us instead erect these structures in the oldest and most geographically restricted area in the city, so that people may drive endless circuits of the downtown core - burning expensive fuel, emitting noxious vapours and annoying the native population - in the vain hope of finding a parking space. Let us also provide an irregular bus service for special events that will shuttle people to the place they want to go from the area(s) where we should have built these edifices in the first place, and then praise ourselves for our perspicacity. This is the Word of your Council. Amen"

  • Nancy
    April 26, 2013 - 12:59

    Instead of building condos - why doesn't the city purchase the land downtown with abandoned buildings on it & build tiered, metered parking areas???

  • Virginia Waters
    April 26, 2013 - 12:47

    At the core of many of these municipal issues - especially this one - you'll find an arrogant, myopic, deaf municipal council. A downtown with roads built for horse and buggy had already been revitalized as much as traffic flows and parking would allow. It didn't need yet another ugly concrete bunker blotting the landscape and sucking up parking for a square mile. Other than the boozers on George Street, Mile One hasnt added to the downtown – it has cheapened it and made it more difficult for small businesses and homeowners. ‘Put it where people from the suburbs and out-of-town could get to it’ was the advice from concerned citizens at the time. That advice was ignored and now, in the most ridiculous irony yet, the finger is being pointed at those same out-of-towners as the cause of the problem. ‘Let’s make Mount Pearl, CBS and Paradise cough-up with money to fix the problems we created’ is the new cry from O’Keefe and his crowd of latter-day pirates. Ah yes, we’re almost back to the toll-booth talk from the days of Baird and Wells. Yes, by all means put up a toll booth at the overpass. That’ll sort out your parking problem by cutting business in half. But perhaps this is much-ado about nothing. I suspect the love affair with the Ice-Caps is over. One good year followed by the most lack-lustre play anywhere in the league has probably woken-up more than few season ticket holders. My guess is there’ll be no shortage of seats next season and parking won’t be nearly as difficult. But if the citizens of St. John’s want a longer-term fix to the problem of perennial bad planning, then I think we should start using our heads a little more at election time instead of voting in the same old crowd of self-interested, self-important hangers-on. We have an opportunity to do just that this Fall by electing an entire new slate of candidates. With the possible exception of O’Leary (and Galgay who’s retiriing) I can’t think of one member of council who deserves re-election.

    • Jay
      April 26, 2013 - 13:51

      Virginia Waters, Great post. It seems that everybody on the Avalon Peninsula knew that parking was problematic in the downtown area, except City Council. By the way, Doc was a key part of the Wells clique as well. His only reason for running now seems to be to get some kind of a legacy projrct named after him. I wonder if we called the Bannerman Park skating rink, or the harbour fence after him, would he just go away?

    • Chris Chafe
      April 26, 2013 - 17:09

      Yes Girl.......lets move a stadium to the the burbs and while we are at it lets Move all the Office Workers to the burbs as well and let DT crumble in Les Miserables fashion. Perhaps you should get out of DT St. John's and see how other cities have developed their downtowns.

  • david
    April 26, 2013 - 12:14

    Another thought.....Transit may never be a completely cost-effective option here, but it does provide a significant, undocumented public benefit...when people get convicted of drunk driving here and lose their driving privileges (note the word "privilege".....), the existence of public transit does provide a cost-effective option for them to still get around. Based on this newspaper's regular coverage of arrests, I would not be surprised if around 4% of all Newfoundland drivers (1 in 25 does not seem wildly unrealistic at all) are driving drunk on our roads at any given time ( and at least double that on weekends, or after an Ice Caps game, etc.). With more ambitious policing efforts, this one source of "market demand" would keep an entire fleet of buses quite full. The only thing more dangerous in Newfoundland than being a driver is being a pedestrian. Thankfully, due to our own laziness and very uninspired urban planning, no one here walks anywhere.

  • adam smith
    April 26, 2013 - 08:43

    The problem is that the cost of parking is too low. Raise the meter rates and, if possible, used the extra revenue to subsidize some kind of busing/park-and-ride system. Let those that want to park downtown compensate those that choose to bus it.

    • Steve
      April 26, 2013 - 10:35

      Park and ride is the answer. You need an efficient system so people are not stuck waiting for a bus longer than 5 minutes or so, and it needs to be cheap or free, in contrast to parking downtown, which can be made more expensive. If you plug the right incentives and disincentives into the system, it can work.

  • Christopher Chafe
    April 26, 2013 - 07:50

    Once again we have an opinion from a St. John's resident who fails to realize that it is our own city's fault we are in the situation today due to previous councils in ability to plan for the future.

  • Brad
    April 26, 2013 - 07:02

    It's basically common knowledge that it's tough to find parking downtown. How about showing up a bit earlier and actually walk to your destination, instead of trying to find a spot at the door. Suck it up!