Halifax woman’s ‘smart’ free-parking manoeuver draws backlash

Margot Melanson says her penny-pinching parking system saved her hundreds of dollars.

I've always advocated giving a break to any vehicle that helps reduce traffic congestion in our big cities, including discounted or free parking for minicars, motorcycles and scooters.

For instance, the city of Kelowna, B.C., has issued passes to several hundred hybrid cars that allows them to park for free.

But Halifax resident Margot Melanson has been pushing the envelope by squeezing her Smart car between two other cars already parked in metered spots, CBC News reports.

Melanson's favourite spot is on the doorstep of the Nova Scotia legislature. She manages to slide the roller skate-shaped Smart — about 2.5 metres long — between the nose and tail of two cars using the adjacent spots and Voila! Free parking.

"It's like I have the primo sweet spot," Melanson told CBC News. "I have parked here sometimes when there's just six inches on either end."

Melanson, who works in a store around the corner from the legislature, said the free parking isn't just a bonus but a necessity.

[ Related: Edmonton tows hundreds of vehicles during parking ban ]

"Parking downtown can be outrageously expensive," Melanson said. "And monthly parking is just way beyond my budget. There's just no way I can afford a downtown monthly parking spot."

Since discovering the spot three months ago, Melanson said she's only received one $25 ticket so far. She paid it but plans to fight any future tickets.

But while Melanson said she's had people cheer her on when she eases into her parking spot, it's also drawn a backlash since CBC first aired her story last week.

Hundreds of comments on the original story expressed anger.

"Motorcycles aren't allowed to do this. So why does she think she's exempt?" one commenter asked.

Another wondered how "smart" it was to force other cars to do with less room in the parking spots they paid to use.

(I think it's also worth asking how much she trusts her fellow drivers' parking skills when they try to enter or exit the reduced space she's created.)

"I didn't sleep very well last night," Melanson told CBC News.

On Monday, she took a different route downtown and left her car in a parking garage.

"I was truly afraid to bring it downtown today," she said. "I was frightened someone would do something to it."

[ More Brew: Frustration over Bill-45 prompts protests, hunger strike ]

Melanson is now also on the parking police's radar. Authorities say she's parking illegally because she's too far from the meter.

"The front of the vehicle can't be farther than one metre from the rear of the parking meter," Michaelyn Thompson, a spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality, told CBC News.

Melanson said the publicity has taught her a valuable lesson: If you find a good place to park downtown, keep it to yourself.

Many cities, including Halifax, allow free or discounted parking for motorcycles in designated spaces and in Vancouver, electric scooters park for free in designated motorbike spots. Smart cars don't get a break.