Free parking program to start in uptown Saint John as city returns to orange phase

·2 min read

The city of Saint John is hoping to jump-start its economy by offering an hour of free on-street parking to motivate people to shop local.

David Dobbelsteyn, Saint John's manager of population growth, presented the parking subsidy plan to city council Monday evening.

Dobbelsteyn said loss of tourism because of COVID-19, and the regular winter pedestrian decline, caused foot traffic to decrease by 50 per cent, which in turn has had a big impact on local businesses.

"Think about if you're a restaurant and you're used to having a lot of folks for lunch, and local businesses are having their staff work remotely, which is a safe thing to do, but it means that those businesses are struggling even more," he said.

Councillors voted unanimously to approve a proposal to spend up to $35,000 to subsidize the first-hour of parking until the end of March. The approval coincided with the province's decision to return Saint John to the orange phase at midnight Tuesday night.

The Saint John has been in the more restrictive red phase for the past week.

The pilot will be run through the HotSpot parking app, which will count the first hour for free automatically. Dobbelsteyn said he hopes that more people will use HotSpot, which will help people find parking easier and avoid tickets.

"We anticipate approximately $30,000 will be returned to the city as parking revenue," he said.

Uptown Saint John is in charge of running and marketing the program.

Submitted by Nancy Tissington
Submitted by Nancy Tissington

Nancy Tissington, the executive director of Uptown Saint John, said the organization has run a similar program after a hard-hitting snowstorm in 2015, and on Black Friday and Valentine's Day. She said during all those days, the app has shown an uptick in people using it.

"There has been quite a struggle here," she said. "And January, February and March is typically a hard time of the year. It's even more so now. We're pretty excited about the fact that orange is coming back."

She said uptown Saint John can have this program up and running in five to seven days.

The parking program will be financed through the Municipal Economic and Community Recovery Program, which was set up as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.