By Alyson Queen –
Since 2011, a number of Local Area Parking Studies (LAPS) have been undertaken by the City of Ottawa on almost all neighbourhood main streets in the core. The purpose, under the Municipal Parking Management Strategy, is to ensure affordable and accessible public parking that supports local business and tourism.
A study was recently concluded for Wellington West, starting at the east end near the old train tracks at Somerset and ending in the west end at Golden and Richmond.
It is one of the last LAPS for the City to undertake. With it comes a number of recommendations to address congestion, including better enforcement, promotion of alternative transportation and addressing use of loading zones but the recommendation that is generating all of the attention from business owners is the potential introduction of paid parking.
Scott Caldwell is the area manager for parking at the City of Ottawa and he has been peddling the study and its results. In an interview with the Kitchissippi Times, he says it “made sense to look at Wellington West now, given the way that the area has developed, which really didn’t exist even four or five years ago.”
On that point, Zach Dayler, Executive Director of the Wellington West BIA, agrees.
“Wellington West is the largest commercial destination in the urban core of Ottawa.”
With continued growth and development, parking has become an issue for the broader area. That’s why discussions are now taking place on how to deal with the entire Somerset-Wellington-Richmond corridor.
According to the City’s guidelines, if a neighbourhood hits about 85% of parking spots being used at a given time, then congestion and turn-over need to be dealt with.
“We’re floating just below 80%, depending on the time of day and week,” confirms Zach. “I’d like to hold we’re actually lower than that because of the issue of longer-term parking.”
A variety of opinions and suggestions are being raised, including the fact there is no area-wide consistency when it comes to time limits. Along the corridor, you need to check signs, because they range from 30 minutes to three hours.
Sonya Fisher of ER Fisher Menswear invests in her own customer parking but hopes the City doesn’t implement flat one-hour parking rules. “If the City wants to encourage local businesses, they need to give customers more time, perhaps two hours,” says Sonya.
Some business owners also note parking spots have been removed over time.
“I think the City created the problem. There may have been 70 spots that we lost in the area,” says Linda Greenberg, owner of Capital City Luggage. “Most of the stores have staff who are parking on the street, and they’re taking over a lot of the spots.”
There is no silver bullet to meeting the community’s broader needs, particularly when looking ahead to LRT usage and a greater emphasis on cycling and walking. Like anything, a balance will need to be struck.
“Enforcement, time limits and paid parking all are inter-related in terms of how they influence turnover,” says Scott.
The sticking point is paid parking. To many, this would significantly reduce attraction to the area.
“I’ve never had one complaint about customers not finding a parking space. Paid parking is anti-business, it’s a tax grab,” says Ken Lauzon, owner of Lauzon Music. “Why would someone come in and buy guitar strings for $4.95 and pay $2 in the metre when they can go to a shopping centre and park for free?”
The local BIAs are doing their part to solicit feedback and present it to the City in an organized way. Members are currently being polled about their thoughts, which will be passed along to the City.
“Our board looked at it, and all the data, and [decided] that the membership should have a say,” says Zach.
Mary Thorne of the Westboro BIA also notes that a board task force has been dedicated to addressing parking issues.
“The task force has been very active and diligent and hard working,” she says, adding that 13 spaces were recently opened up on Kirkwood as a result of their work.
When asked his position on paid parking, Scott is fairly frank.
“When faced with a parking issue, there are limited possible solutions. The conclusion is that paid parking is warranted in both Westboro and Wellington West, but that will only be a formal recommendation if we receive concurrence. “
That concurrence is hard-written into the rules. Under the Delegation of Authority By-Law, staff have the ability to trigger a rate change but cannot proceed and implement changes without concurrence from community associations, the affected BIAs and the ward councillor.
Councillor Jeff Leiper is not ready to agree.
“I’ve heard loud and clear from residents that they are opposed to paid parking on Somerset-Wellington-Richmond. If I hear over the next few months that this is something residents support, that might change.”
The findings and community feedback will be presented to the Transportation Committee in March 2017.
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