By Doug Hallett
Coun. Leanne Piper thinks it’s time for city hall to take a comprehensive, citywide look at how to deal with what she says is a worsening problem of commuters’ parked cars clogging residential streets.
“The problem is getting worse. Over the past three years it has just compounded,” Piper said in an interview Tuesday.
“Word has spread that this is an alternative to paid parking,” she said. “And as word spreads, more cars.”
People aren’t just parking on streets within easy walking distance of their workplaces, Piper said. They are also parking on streets next to main bus routes and then hopping a bus to get to the University Centre, for example, she said. “It isn’t just people parking to be able to walk to work. It is also commuters using side streets as their commuter parking lot.”
City hall has a process for dealing with parking complaints from street residents, but staff are getting more requests than they can easily handle, Piper said. When the process does lead to parking restrictions being imposed – such as a two-hour parking limit or no parking allowed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays – it doesn’t solve the overall problem.
Experience in Guelph has shown that when such restrictions are imposed, drivers “just move over a block (to park their cars.) The problem keeps moving over, block by block,” Piper said. “The problem doesn’t disappear. The problem just moves.”
Parking problems are found on streets near the downtown, near the OMAFRA building and the research park on Stone Road, and near The Elliott retirement housing, she said.
“Some whole streets are taken up by daytime parking.”
Bumper-to-bumper parking on streets during the day on weekdays puts children living on those streets at risk, leaves no room for service, utility or delivery trucks to stop, and makes snow and leaf pickup problematic or impossible, she said. In many cases, people have trouble exiting their own driveways safely because of the congestion and sight-line obstruction.
The city needs to deal with the problem “on a comprehensive basis, not a street-by-street basis,” she said. She said an overall policy review is needed, although she noted that this could create workload issues for city staff.
The “balanced” approach that she’s seeking to deal with the issue could include several elements, said Piper, who started looking closely at the issue after getting emails about it from her Ward 5 constituents last year.
City hall could start by focusing on parking on narrow streets, where parking can easily create safety issues, she said.
The city could install parking meters, as has been done on Delhi Street near Guelph General Hospital. But she thinks “very limited” use should be made of this option, because residents of a street and their visitors shouldn’t have to pay to park there.
Another option is to impose time restrictions on parking only on parts of a street, so that these sections remain open for residents and their guests to park, she said.
Another option is to issue permits that would be required to park on a given street. “It doesn’t necessarily have to cost money,” she said, but such a permit could prove that a vehicle owner lives on that street and has a right to park there.
Piper said she likes the idea of a corporate transit pass supplied at a reduced cost to a company’s employees to encourage commuting by public transit, rather than driving and parking on residential streets. The subsidy to cut the cost of the pass should come from the company, not from city coffers, she said.
Piper also said that if commuters were made aware of the effects their street parking is having on residents’ enjoyment of life, they might “rethink” their actions and buy a parking pass where they work.
“Some people won’t care, but others might,” she said. “We are a pretty compassionate community.”
Piper said she doesn’t think there a single answer to the parking problem, but perhaps a combination of answers.
She said she is waiting for the results of a downtown parking study that city staff have been working on, which has included looking at parking on residential streets near the downtown.
The range of options that staff end up proposing for the downtown area should “inform discussion” about what to do about the parking problem in other parts of the city as well, she said.
By Doug Hallett