Downtown parking edict doesn’t blanket all

Tickets will be issued, but not all broken meters will be targeted, says Hanlon.

Ches’s Fish and Chips on Freshwater Road is one of the businesses being impacted by the broken meters. The owners say people take up the meters outside their building for hours on end. Tyler Dunne/Kicker

Tyler Dunne

Vicki Barbour is the granddaughter of Ches’s from Ches’s Fish and Chips and also manages the marketing and communications for the restaurant.

She says parking downtown has always been an issue, but lately the problem has gotten worse and it’s affecting their business negatively.

“There was one day I saw a gentleman pull up, and he took a bicycle out of his vehicle and I thought oh,he’s just running over to the bike shop, he won’t be there that long, and his vehicle was still there four hours later when I left work,” she said.

On Monday, city council announced placing a two-hour restriction on broken meters downtown and in surrounding areas like Freshwater Road. Drivers parked in certain areas will receive a ticket if their vehicles remain over the allotted time period. This new enforcement was in response to business owners downtown who felt they have been impacted by essentially unlimited parking directly in front of their stores.

“So what we’re seeing is people parking there all day long which it makes it difficult for customers to access the restaurant in an area where it is already difficult to get parking,” said Barbour.

Barbour says on the other side of things, when the meters were working, employees would put coins into them because being ticketed is a deterrent to would-be customers as well.

“Now it’s the reverse. People can’t get into the restaurant because there is nowhere to park.”

Barbour says she doesn’t believe people are using the parking spaces with broken meters to avoid paying for parking because there are hardly any in service.

Out of the 1167 meters downtown and in the surrounding area, it is estimated over half aren’t in service.

Debbie Hanlon is a councillor in St. John’s and is the lead of the transportation portfolio. Hanlon says there is a great amount of confusion involving the upcoming ticketing procedure for broken meters.

“We’re not planning on making every parking spot two hours,” Hanlon said. “That was never the intention. The intention is to look at specific areas to help these businesses. We will remove the parking meters and we will have some space that will allow people to flow traffic around.”

The broken meters falling into the two-hour restriction will be marked by clear signage so drivers know what meters are impacted.

After city council discusses exactly what areas will be subject to the restriction, the information will be communicated to the public, Hanlon says.

Hanlon says it will be up to parking enforcement to determine how to apply the rule.

The move, says Hanlon, is to help the business owners downtown who say they’ve taken a hit from broken meters outside their establishments.

“We’re not saying don’t come down and park,” said Hanlon. “We’re just saying be respectful of the businesses with these broken meters. We should all come together to help and have some sensitivity to the small business owners.”

Although Barbour says the prolonged parking situation is negatively impacting their business, she sympathizes with the downtown employees.

“The reality of it is that there is too many of us for the parking that is available and I totally respect and understand how difficult it is when you have to pay to park every single day when you go to work.”

Barbour says she always tries to look at things through an empathetic lens.

“Maybe people could be aware of where they’re parking and think, hmm, I know parking is at a premium, what’s the impact of me parking here for the day going to have on the community around me?”

Justin Foley wrote an open letter addressing his concerns. He says clear communication is lacking when it comes to the restrictions. Tyler Dunne/Kicker

Justin Foley works at a bar downtown and he wrote an open letter on social media highlighting his concerns about the changes to parking.

Foley says much of the confusion coming from people who frequent downtown comes from a lack of clear communication about another parking restriction.

“Kudos to the city council for trying to actually do something, it’s just that this particular plan seems to be a knee-jerk reaction and doesn’t seem to be completely thought out,” said Foley. “Or if it has been thought out, it hasn’t been completely communicated in a way that it needs to be.”

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