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.
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?
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.
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.
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