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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Halifax’s winter parking ban woes

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HALIFAX – If you happened to be one of the many unlucky car owners who left their cars parked on your neighbourhood street on the night of December 14th, you would have woken up to a $50 ticket on your windshield. With nary a snow flake on the ground or in the forecast, welcome to HRM’s Winter Parking Ban [PDF] (not to go off on a tangent, but this is a document that equates pedestrian traffic with congestion… uh what?).

Merry Christmas! The Grinch came by early.

The ban imposed by the Halifax Regional Municipality’s Traffic Authority prohibits parking between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. in all weather conditions over the winter. The Traffic Authority is legislated through the Provincial Motor Vehicle Act and decisions are not open to appeal.

Metro reported that 200 tickets were given out on the first night, amounting to a $10,000 influx in the coffers, while municipal spokesperson Shaune MacKinlay said it was up to 386 tickets given out. Last year, 17,468 tickets were doled out during the period of the ban, and at $25 each — the fine increased to $50 this year — the total amounted to $436,700 in city coffers.

Dilemma A

If HRMbyDesign hopes to densify and reverse the trend of peninsular population loss — 25,000 in the last few decades — by ‘encouraging larger apartment units’, they need to provide parking spaces for newer residents until Metro Transit is able to catch up with this growth.

When there are four flats in a house with one driveway, who are you supposed to penalize? Should the onus rest on the occupants of the building or the owner of the property?

Dilemma B

Marielle Picher’s piece in The Halifax Commoner from last winter discusses the dilemma provided by the blanket parking ban on nightlife in downtown Halifax. It not only affects designated drivers but staff at establishments that close well after the parking ban goes into effect at 1am. Metro Transit doesn’t help either since buses stop running by midnight.

Dilemma C

How do people like doctors and surgeons — who are excluded from the Winter Parking Regulations [PDF] among other emergency workers who are on call — differentiate their car from others so it doesn’t get towed? With a post-it note? There needs to be a coordinated effort by the city to handle this issue.

Dilemma D

Now before anyone gets the wrong idea, I’m neither a fan of cars nor am I suggesting that owners have a right to park on the street during snow/ice clearing operations.

Nevertheless, at its best, Section 202 of the Motor Vehicle Act (which provides the Traffic Authority with the power to ban parking overnight) is redundant in ensuring clear streets, while at its worst, it penalizes and criminalizes citizens, oddly resulting in another revenue stream for the City.

In contrast, Section 139 of the MVA already enables the authorities to ticket/tow the offending sight of a vehicle on a street if it’s impeding snow/ice clearing operations (day or night). Inconsistently, Section 202 allows them to ticket/tow the vehicle no matter what the conditions are overnight (see Supplementary Report to Council, 2002 [ PDF ]).


Since clear streets for snow and ice operations is the main logic behind the ban, shouldn’t the ban only be enforced when there is snow and ice to clear?

Councillor Dawn Sloane submitted a residents’ petition last winter asking the Winter Parking Ban to be rescinded. A report [ PDF ] was then filed.  This winter, Councillor Sloane brought forward another petition asking for a review of the current policy at the Regional Council Meeting. It passed on Tuesday night, and another report is expected in 30 days.

I’ve tried to understand this ban as being more environmentally friendly, but it’s not. If this was truly an idea to encourage more sustainable forms of transport then the City and the province would make public transit and cycling infrastructure a clear priority instead of appropriating front yards to widen car lanes.

A considered approach would be to ban parking ahead of an impending storm, when it’s actually required and what the law is intended towards. A telephone snowline, website updates and TV/radio announcements are a few ways information could be easily disseminated about that particular night’s ban.

Granted, maritime winters with rapid cycles of freeze and thaw pose a significant challenge to clearing crews. Alternate side street parking – enforced day and night – in areas of high car density, particular to multiple family dwellings neighbourhoods, may be a viable option. It would enable alternate sides of the street cleared on consecutive days and provide people with an option that doesn’t cost them $50 per infraction.

The final decision for the ban currently rests with the Traffic Authority, whose power is derived from the province, not Council. This process needs to change. Decisions affecting thousands of residents must not be made within a vacuum devoid of public consultation or public accountability.

Photo by Matthew J Parsons



  1. Drivers can always find a “need” to keep half the space in the city free for parking. And Halifax is almost 100% car owners. But almost all of your dilemnas can be brushed aside in favor of the environment. A: Downtown Halifax can only become denser if parking is reduced. New residents are going to have to find another way to get around. B. The idea that people who are out drinking need a place to park is a kind of social insanity. Sure, some designated drivers will accompany people. Some others will simply drive home drunk. C. Doctors and other emergency people can receive a form from the city. Otherwise, these groups can typically afford the fine. D. So-called “citizens” need to be penalized when they act like selfish consumers instead of socially responsible citizens. The bike and transit infrastructure will come AFTER demand has been increased by inititiatives like this one.

  2. A friend of mine made an interesting observation about the parking ban, in light of her parking challenges. The observation of a lack of private driveways in the north end penalizes car owners, but also a social demographic that can afford to rent or buy houses in ill-conceived parts of the city. Homeowners and renters who have a car to commute to work and to have access to other services. What is most evident, is that the infrastructure in Halifax is inadequate, period, and that the city is making money off people who live in ill-conceived neighborhoods. Consider for example Bauer Street, Creighton, Maynard. Why don’t these streets have personal driveways; how can the city promote a car-centric transportation system and not provide places to park? Who planned the north end? When the north end was planned was driving a necessity? Why doesn’t the city have by-laws that coincide with current planning models existing physically in neighborhoods? How can the city promote unsustainable transportation, ban winter parking, not provide alternatives to people that don’t have a driveway, or not provide the necessary amenities of communities to make it more sustainable? Condos are being built in the north end, but not essential amenities for the communities that will live there or that already live int that community, including a grocery store. People drive due to a lack of infrastructure and for convenience. If it was more convenient to jump on a bus because they ran every 10 minutes or that they could afford to live in neighborhoods closer to their work, than people would do that. However, one thing that creates community in solidarity in particular interests; it is also, key to consider the socio-economics of planning in Halifax and how most people commute and access essential services that are not available in their community, work, grocery stores and banks. Gottingen street was once considered downtown and had a variety of services available to the people in that community including, a grocery store, bank, theatre, and many restaurants, but no longer exist for the current neighborhood forcing them to commute to other neighborhoods. The parking ban illustrates again the ill-conceived planning in Halifax as it does not address the socio-economics and the reality of the inadequate infrastructure existing. Perhaps the city should provide some kind of re-bate or a free place to park in the neighbourhood, for residents that don’t have a driveway, but are not allowed to park on the street.

  3. I cannot understand where we have had a mild winter this year when compared to other winters (especially last year) that the ban is still on. The ban is just stupid. The plows are not coming by to clean up the streets. I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY THE BAN IS STILL ON?!?

  4. As a tourist of Halifax it’s hard to find parking that is free. Is there and where? haha..
    But here I am taking time to visit and spend money shopping and such adding my money into Halifax center. So should I stop coming to this city and go to other spots with free parking? Again it’s worth saying that 25000 people leaving this city mentioned in the report above mean anything to anyone?

  5. A $50 dollar ticket for parking on the street when the temp is+5 and no strom in the forcast is F***** insane. On the 2nd day of the ban!!!HMR Traffic Authority …. are they the same morons who designed the Windsor/Young/Bayers interfucktion or the Fairview overpass. WOW. I know I’m indirectly responsible for the politicans in this city, but come on step up and show the citizens Halifax that you can change stupid legislation.

  6. Unless all the complainers are willing to sign waivers allowing the city to blast their vehicles with salt/gravel trucks, quit complaining.

    If your car gets scratched,blasted,dinged the cost is more than $50 to fix it and half of you would go after the city for it. So it is simply a liability issue.