Parking woes at Health Sciences Centre

New automated system creates confusion, long lineups for drivers

Published on October 10, 2012

A woman smoked a cigarette as she idled behind eight vehicles also trying to exit the Health Sciences Centre parking lot in St. John’s Tuesday afternoon. She did not mince words when asked to describe how she felt about the new automated parking system.

“It’s bullshit,” she quickly responded when asked about the system, which came into effect Tuesday.

The new system, which eliminates metered parking through a ticket-based system, created long lineups for vehicles trying to leave the parking lot through the manned kiosk exit.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” said the woman smoking the cigarette, who did not want to give her name. “I’ve been here now 10 minutes in the line, and I’m not moving. I’d say I’ll be here another 15 or 20.”

For drivers at the back of the line, the wait to get through was complicated by vehicles attempting to enter the main lineup for the kiosk, which faces the patient entrance of the Health Sciences Centre.

Those vehicles attempting to enter the line from the left and right side relied on Good Samaritans to let them through. This created further delays for drivers at the back of the line waiting to present their ticket at the kiosk.

Vehicles waiting to join the line from the left side sometimes blocked vehicles that just received a ticket while entering the parking lot, creating further problems.

Lorraine Coates was among those drivers trying to join the main line from its right side Tuesday. She had already been waiting for eight minutes when she spoke with The Telegram.

“It’s a great idea,” she said of the new system, “but very, very slow.”

Tara Antle said it appeared there was some confusion amongst drivers on how to make best use of the new automated system.

“Inside there’s a pay station, and there’s a lady (who) stood there saying, ‘Come outside to pay,’ but even if you pay inside, you still have to come out and wait to get back out.”

Automated pay stations are located in the main hallway of the Health Sciences Centre near the main entrance and the adult emergency department entrance.

Frustrations boiled over at times Tuesday. One man was observed cursing at staff inside the kiosk.

Under the new system, drivers will pay 25 cents for 20 minutes of main lot parking, or 75 cents an hour for up to $12 per day.

Concerns raised

In an emailed statement to The Telegram, a spokeswoman for East­ern Health said the regional health authority was “aware of concerns expressed by some patients and visitors with regards to the change in the parking system.”

The spokeswoman said the lineup issue appeared to result from people getting acquainted with the new payment methods for parking. She said the health authority is committed to educating users, adding that staff were on site Tuesday to help members of the public figure out how to pay for parking.

Some of the drivers The Telegram spoke with Tuesday did say the situation will likely improve as time moves on.

“I mean, this is the first day,” said Coates. “Hopefully as time goes it will be better.”

Antle said she believes the new system is ultimately a better one when considering people previously were forced to periodically return to their parking spaces to fill the meters with more coins.

“It beats being inside and having to put money in the meter all the time, because it’s hard when you’re in there with somebody who’s very ill, or if you’re in there yourself and you can’t come out, so it’s a benefit that way.”

Along with the kiosk, drivers can use two exits on Clinch Crescent, both of which accept pre-validated tickets and credit card payments.

Twitter: TeleAndrew