Parking – Craven says you will never satisfy everyone. Is overnight street parking coming ?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 29, 2011  In Burlington – you don’t get to park overnight on the streets and according to Councillors Dennison and Lancaster – that’s the way Burlington wants it.  Ward 2 councillor Marianne Meed Ward thinks the city should look at extending the amount of time people can park on a residential street at night, at least on the downtown streets, and asked her fellow council members to support her request for a Staff Direction that would look into the problem.

Council members can ask city hall Staff to look into a problem and report back to a Council committee with ideas and options.  Any council member can put forward a staff direction but they have to get their fellow council members to go along with the idea.  Frequently, the council member will work with Staff to craft the wording for the direction – and so it was on Wednesday Councillor Meed Ward put forward a Staff Direction that would look into various options to allow residential parking in the downtown core – which no one actually defined at the meeting but everyone seemed to know what it was.

The Staff Direction went as follows:

Does Burlington want on street parking 24 hoiurs a day? What about those who just don't have the off-street parking they need?

Direct the Director of Transportation Services to bring forward a proposed study scope, public participation process and budget as part of the 2012 current budget process to examine the feasibility on increasing Burlington’s 3-hr on-street parking limit between Friday evening to Monday morning, on select streets, to accommodate visitors; and

Direct the Director of Transportation Services to include in the evaluation of extended on-street parking duration, the pros and cons of changing the time limit, including the criteria for assessing which streets should be included or excluded, hours covered, experiences of surrounding municipalities with similar by-laws, and other matters staff feel are pertinent to the decision-making.  (Councillor Meed Ward) (CC-15-11)

Councillor Taylor pointed out that parking on residential streets had not been looked at for the last three terms of council so “perhaps it is time to review the three hour parking limit on residential streets”.

Taylor however wanted to know what it was going to cost to get the outline for a study put together and when he heard “about $7500.00” he relaxed.  The Direction went through a number of changes before it got to this point. And it was during this process that one could see the different views of what kind of a city the individual council members want Burlington to be.

Meed Ward talked of her time in Toronto where people paved parts of their front lawn to park on, or bought a permit that let them park on the street.  She saw this as part of urban living – just what you had to do if you had a car and needed place to park the thing.

As the comment and debate went around the horseshoe there were suggestions that people be able to park in the public parking lots overnight or in those lots next to parks.  Nope – that wasn’t possible – those lots had to be plowed when there was snow and the cars would get in the way.

Councillor Taylor said he wasn’t on for this kind of parking.  “Nefarious things happen in cars that use those parking lots” he opined – which led his fellow councillors to much mirth and the question: “Was he speaking from experience” to which the jolly council member mumbled something about that “being a long time ago”.

Councillor Dennison wasn’t on for overnight parking either.  He just didn’t want to see cars on any Burlington  residential streets overnight.

Councillor Lancaster didn’t want cars on the street overnight either. “We’re not Hamilton” she explained. “I don’t want to go there.”

Dennison and Lancaster were speaking for the older more sedate Burlington that has a view of itself as very different than Hamilton.

Councillor Sharman didn’t have a viewpoint he wanted to put forward other than to say that parking was a “horrendous” problem for people in his ward.

Councillor Craven came up with the most striking comment when he said that parking arrangements amounts to a “fragile balance”.  “When you upset the balance all you do is change who is complaining.”  That’s the kind of wisdom that comes being on Council for more than ten years.

There are a number of parking programs that are available for those situations where a resident has relatives or friends staying with them for a couple of weeks – they can get a 15 day permit.  These would apply to situations where a driveway is being repaired or renovations are being done on a house.  You can get one 15 day permit per vehicle – per year, which means you’re kind of stuck if your renovation takes more than 15 days.

While Council members debate residential parking in the city the Burlington Downtown Business Association is coming to Council with a report developed for the Downtown Parking Committee – that report is due to be released early in November for discussion at a meeting November 16th.

All this discussion around parking – what happened to the cutting back on the use of cars; getting everyone on either a bus or a bicycle? Meed Ward made the comment that Burlington was in a state of “transition” between our reliance on cars and the move to public transit.

Viewpoints can get pretty ugly. We are going to hear many different opinions on street parking.

Meed Ward pointed out that there is “an opportunity to ‘repurpose’ and ‘recycle’ the asphalt we have for parking.  It was a cute phrase and would go down well with the environmentalists but Burlington isn’t going to buy that one.  Our environmentalism gets limited to the Escarpment.

Burlington, like many Ontario municipalities has had a 3 hour limit for the past 20 years.  Behind that regulation was a policy to encourage residents to provide off street parking for the number of vehicles they own; to allow road maintenance and snow removal as well as the collection of residential garbage.  It would also control the problem of derelict vehicles and result in clear and uncluttered streets.

The city does have a policy that would accommodate on street parking if enough people in a block petition for it.  No one was sure what the policy was – other than Councillor Taylor who knew that it had a name with a lot of  SS’s in it.  That policy was approved in 2001 and amended in 2003.  Called the NOSSP – Neighbourhood on-Street Parking Program – allows a minimum group of 10 residents (both sides of the street) or an entire street block to apply for extended on-street parking.

Any “parking zone” within the city may apply by picking up a package from parking services.  A minimum of 75% support must be obtained within the designated zone in order to qualify.  There are three different categories of NOSSO’s:

Category 1:  weekends only which would be from Friday at 6:00 pm to Sunday at midnight

Category 2: 7 days a week, 24 hrs. a day.  This one is to accommodate residents who are faced with inadequate off-street parking.  In order to get this category residents must demonstrate to city hall staff that a problem exists.  City hall defines inadequate as “1 or less spaces designated for off-street parking”.  That seems like a very limiting definition – you might want to talk to people at the parking department about that one.

Category 3: Overnight which would allow parking on the street from 1 am to 6 am and to get this you must be able to demonstrate inadequate off-street parking facilities exist – which means 1 or less spaces designated for off-street parking

You can get an information package by clicking here.

You can get what the city calls a resident survey form by clicking here and you can also get the Designated Street Representative check list by clicking here.

This is your tax dollars at work.

The Staff Direction calls for an outline for a study that will gather facts, inform and consult with citizens and come back to Committee with a list of options.  This one will be contentious.

On street parking makes for a much different city. But one needs a car to get around Burlington - what are the other options. City council is going to revisit their parking policies.

Programs like NOSPP meet needs – some of which are created by your council when they approve building projects that have inadequate parking space to begin with.  Your Council is caught between the realization that we need to cut down on the use of fossil fuels if we are to do anything about global warming, and the fact that you need a car if you are going to live in Burlington.

The city was built during a time when land and gas were cheap.  The city has yet to come up with policies that will result in a transit system that works adequately.  A former Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson,  is going to be in Burlington in the middle of November for a book reading.  The social class that wants to hear what she has to say is just not going to take transit from their homes south of New Street out to the Royal Botanical Gardens on a cold winter’s day.  And I just can’t see this crowd sharing a taxi from their condo’s on Lakeshore out to the RBG.

We have some distance to go on policy development and coming to terms with the reality we face before we really resolve the transportation problem.  It’s about a lot more than parking on the streets overnight.


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