The thriving business strip in Ottawa's Westboro, Wellington West and Hintonburg neighbourhoods should stay free of parking meters, Ottawa's transportation committee decided Wednesday.
That's despite data showing that there are more than enough vehicles fighting for free spots to warrant them.
"This isn't just a one-off occasion that we're seeing high levels of demand," said Scott Caldwell, from the city's road services department.
Sections of Wellington Street West, especially, exceed capacity "virtually all the time", said Caldwell.
And yet, staff could not recommend parking meters for the neighbourhood because the existing process requires the community associations, business improvement areas and councillor to agree to them.
Kitchissippi ward, however, is split on the issue.
Parking enforcement driving customers out of ByWard
The situation aggravated one ByWard Market retailer, who went to transportation committee to argue the west-end neighbourhood should not get special treatment and be allowed to protect a "golden goose."
"Why would they get free parking and the other areas don't?" asked André Schad, who owns a boutique on Sussex Drive.
Gone are the days when shoppers would circle the ByWard Market looking for a plum parking spot, said Schad.
He called the area a ghost town during the day that now caters to bar and restaurant clientele at night, and he blames aggressive meter enforcement for driving out retailers.
"Westboro is now a much larger commercial area than ByWard. I mean, it dwarfs it. There's virtually no retail left that's non-food in ByWard, yet they (Westboro) have the benefit — their businesses — of free parking," said Schad.
But Schad isn't arguing for free parking everywhere.
"We realize paid parking is here to say," said Schad. "But you have to make that playing field level."
Councillors, staff frustrated by community's veto power
Even the councillor for Westboro and Hintonburg believes the decision to implement paid parking should be a citywide one, and not left up to the community.
"As long as the councillor has a veto, and residents and BIAs have a veto, I don't think paid parking will go in (anywhere) anytime soon," said Jeff Leiper.
Like city staff, Jeff Leiper, believes paid parking can create turnover and more shoppers for businesses.
But while the Westboro BIA and Hampton Iona Community Association were fine with parking meters, the Wellington West BIA, Westboro Community Association, Wellington Village Community Association and the Hintonburg Community Association did not want paid parking.
So, for now, Leiper would not support paid parking in his ward and was pleased transportation committee didn't suddenly impose paid parking on the ward after the community members had dutifully followed the existing rules.
He was, however, pleased the city's transportation committee agreed to look at changing the process in the future.
The debate over parking meters came up as part of an overall look at the Kitchissippi parking strategy, a strategy that Leiper sees some useful tweaks, including:
- Creating a standard 90-minute time limit along Richmond/Wellington/Somerset, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, and do more to enforce those time limits.
- Adding extra on-street parking spaces on Madison and Kirkwood Avenues.
- Working with business improvement areas to consolidate loading zones and reducing their hours.
- Putting in parking meters on Danforth Avenue, a busy strip behind the Mountain Equipment Co-op store.