Free parking downtown was for customers – not for staff. Parking lots full before stores and services were open.

December 4, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  Isn’t working out quite the way it was supposed to.

The people who work on making downtown a better place for shoppers worked very hard to have December be a FREE parking month within the downtown core.  The belief  was that people objected to paying for parking when it was free at the malls – so they made all of December a  free parking month in the downtown core.

The city came up with a really smart promotional piece that set a great tone.  The city even advanced the free parking plan by a day to tie in with an additional marketing program that was brought to the city by the Yellow Pages people.

So – how is it working so far? Are people coming downtown in droves to shop?  They must be – you have to look to find a parking spot – especially at the Brant and Elizabeth street parking lots.

On my way to a Standing Committee meeting at city hall when there are usually dozen of spaces available I had to drive around to the far side to find a space.  There were six spaces left in the Elizabeth lot.  Great I thought – then I paused – it’s just 9:10 am – no one is downtown shopping yet.

The plan was to have the parking spaces as free for shoppers – not for the merchants or service providers on Brant Street.

I picked up my car at just after 4:00 pm – the lot was still full but I’d walked along Brant and there was not much in the way of street traffic.  Then I figured it out – the people who work downtown were using the parking lots – they could stay there all day and not spend a dime.  The people from the Buzz barber shop had figured that out and obviously a lot of other people as well.

Brian Dean, General Manager of the Burlington Downtown Business Association (BDBA) figures the people working downtown knew the rule was a two-hour limit on the street so they would park in the lots.  Someone needs to have an up close and personal; one-to-one conversation with the people who work downtown.  Use the parking garage on Lotus.  There were 120 spaces available when I passed the building at 3:20 pm.

For retail and service provider staff to use popular parking lot space for personal reasons  is akin to shooting yourself in the foot.  A lot of work has been put into making downtown an attractive, welcoming place to shop.  Free parking was meant for the people they want to attract. 

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8 comments to Free parking downtown was for customers – not for staff. Parking lots full before stores and services were open.

  • Joe Lamb

    If Councillor Lancaster parked in front of her own business at the yellow bagged meters, I think it is a poor example.In my opinion she should set the example and not be the example.Having said this it would not surprise me.Many of Councillor Lancaster’s decisions on council in my opinion do not reflect much fore thought.She is a rookie Councillor who for the most part has disappointed. Carol D’Amelio and Frank McKeown must be licking their chops with less than 1 year until the next Election.

  • Veronica Rottenburger

    I actually saw Councillor Lancaster parking behind city hall in front of her business on Elgin Street; is this acceptable under the current free parking program?

  • Chris Ariens

    Very predictable. Parking is a service that has value. Making it “free” creates an imbalance between supply and demand. That employees of local businesses and city hall are using that service to the exclusion of shoppers and residents is no surprise.

    Much better that we charge a market price for parking – the most convenient spots have the highest prices while the spots further away are lower. This way, employees will decide to park further away where it’s cheaper, saving the most convenient spots for their paying customers. And if the revenue is used to improve the local business district – nicer sidewalks, planters, street cleaning, etc., it will be a more inviting and enjoyable experience…even with a modest cost to store your car while enjoying it.

    A good read on this phenomenon would be:

  • Roger

    City staff – parking but city business owners – are these the same people who complain about lack of business – tells me the future of downtown Burlington business is not good when they take parking around the people who give them business

  • Randy Lipshitz

    Great idea, poor planning, funny staff behaviour, predictable. Now what? Internal city hall memo to all staff from senior management; attention all civil servants, think before you do. Union grievances on their way for enforcing the restriction of staff parking opportunities.

  • Shannon Gillies

    Not much talk about the parking rate increase after December (daily rate going up $2). Someone always pays for free parking.

  • James Smith

    So next year why not offer free Bus Rides to & fro the downtown Thursday, Friday Saturday and Sunday instead?

  • Joe Lamb

    Exactly as I predicted . I live downtown and assure you that there were many available spots downtown in the mornings before free parking was introduced .Perhaps a good place to start the search for the new cars using the lots is at City hall and our Municipal employees who should be banned from using the free lots? I also suggest some of the condominium owners downtown with second cars or their visitors may be using the lots now because Council always concedes to developers when they request less visitor parking in new condominiums. When paid parking is in effect these condo owners search for available free spots for their visitors in their buildings from other owners who work during the day.Only goes to prove convienance ,$$$$ and selfishness are strong motivators.Burlington Council needs to learn from the observations in this article as their past decisions are coming back to haunt them. They also need to strengthen the Downtown Parking Committee who should have anticipated these results and taken steps in advance to rectify them . Joe Lamb.. 430 Pearl.