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Editorial: Towing the line

Water Street, downtown St. John's after a heavy snowfall.
Water Street, downtown St. John’s after a heavy snowfall. — Telegram file photo

Soon — sometime soon — the City of St. John’s will implement a plan to start towing parked cars on stretches of Water and Duckworth streets between 3:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.

The plan was passed last week, but the city’s been delaying implementation so that it can get the message out about the ban, which is meant to make snowclearing easier in the downtown core.

There’s clearly work to be done on the message front: the city’s own website hasn’t been changed to reflect the new rules yet, still saying about downtown parking that, “On-street parking is permitted throughout the winter, unless signage indicates otherwise, except when the street is scheduled for snow removal operations. … Any vehicle impeding snow removal will be impounded at the owner’s expense.”

Of course, the new rules will apply whether snow removal is going to take place or whether there isn’t so much as a flake in the sky. Between 3:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., your vehicle will be towed, and you’ll get a $275 towing fee, to start.

One complaint about the new plan has been the potential for drivers who drink to drive their cars while impaired because of the threat of towing.

There is some point to that argument; people make bad decisions when they are drinking, and the threat of a $275 towing fee could certainly tip the balance towards stupidly getting behind the wheel.

Of course, the new rules will apply whether snow removal is going to take place or whether there isn’t so much as a flake in the sky. Between 3:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., your vehicle will be towed, and you’ll get a $275 towing fee, to start.

There have also been concerns for wait staff and bartenders, many of whom will be cutting a very fine line in leaving work just as the ban comes into place at night.

The city argues that there are spots in city-owned parking lots where drivers can leave their cars until 7 a.m., and suggests those who plan to spend time in downtown bars should make their plans knowing the ban exists. Not a bad argument.

It’s a harder argument to make during the times when there is no snowfall, and the towing and ticketing will go on unabated.

The city says its parking bans are in place because snowfalls are unpredictable. It sure looked like that Tuesday, when ice pellets and freezing rain were in the forecast for days, but streets were horrendous anyway.

But somewhere in this equation there has to be some common sense — the city of Halifax, for example, has this set of rules: “The municipal overnight winter parking ban will be in effect this season from Dec. 15, 2017, to Mar. 31, 2018. It will be enforced only during declared weather events and ongoing clearing operations.”

You can even register for notifications to come right to your phone.

And if it ain’t snowing, they ain’t towing.

Of course, that means that Halifax doesn’t get any impound revenue when there isn’t snow.

Hmm.

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