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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Parking Change

Nathan Raine
Published Wednesday November 26, 01:45 am
Questions swirl about the City’s new street strategy

So: it's the dead of winter, and you have business downtown — and holy smokes! There's a spot right in front of your destination! You pull in, plug the meter and get the hell out of the damn cold. Sweet!

But soon, such luck will be a thing of the past.

The City of Saskatoon is implementing a new parking system with pay stations instead of meters, no individual parking stalls and a new method of ticketing. It’s supposed to launch near the end of November, though details are still a bit fuzzy.

There are a lot of questions here. Where will the pay-stations be? Will I get a ticket if I don't make it to the machine on time? Why remove the individual stalls? What about that asshole with the Lexus who parks like an asshole? What about handicapped and limited mobility drivers?

And finally: why change the system at all?

“The parking meters we have out on the street are essentially at the end of their lifespan,” says Angela Gardiner, director of transportation at the City of Saskatoon. “They were installed almost 15 years ago, and the costs of maintaining them are increasing.”

When looking at the options for replacing the meters, convenience and additional ways to pay were top priority, says Gardiner.

“The multi-space meter technology and system came out above the rest. You make your payments and walk away. You don't have to go back to your vehicle to put a receipt on your dash. Another feature is that if I pay for two hours and am done after one, I can go to another location and use that other hour, so it’s flexible and you can move around. It’s tied to your license plate and not an individual stall.”

The aforementioned removal of individual stalls is another concern. Gardiner believes the ability to park anywhere will encourage drivers to snuggle in closer, leading to more available parking.

“The payment isn’t tied to a stall, so there’s no reason to identify the stalls. In many municipalities, they have seen an increase in the number of vehicles that can park per block by not delineating the stalls. We’ll monitor and determine how many vehicles are actually parking on the block. If we determine there’s a reduction from not painting the stalls, at any time we can go back and repaint them. So it's a trial.”

And about that Lexus asshole?

“Well, as vehicles come and go along the block, where vehicles are parked will adjust. So if one person leaves a lot of space, the vehicle moves. It will be a very fluid environment where vehicles are coming and going all the time. We anticipate that if it’s a problem with one vehicle, it won't take long to rectify,” says Gardiner.

But the Lexus is a real asshole! He takes up far too much space!

“There’s no violation in the traffic bylaws that says how close or far you can park from another vehicle. But we will be monitoring it.”

Maybe the biggest concern is ticketing. There will be one or two pay-stations for every block, with a variety of payment options — provided you can remember you license plate number. Monitoring the paid parking will be a city truck (that scary one with all the cameras). But what happens if the truck passes your vehicle before you can pay — will there be a lag time or buffer?

“We’re finalizing that,” says Gardiner. “But you’ll have one station for every eight to 10 meters — so if it’s a long block you might have two or three stations, and on a shorter block you might have one. They’ll be clearly marked, and there will be a buffer built into the time period. We understand it will take a minute or whatnot to get to get to the station and make your transaction, so if you park and get out and the license plate recognition vehicle goes by, there will be a buffer there that we determine you are in the process of paying,” says Gardiner.

How long will the buffer be? What if there's a line?

“We haven’t determined that yet,” says Gardiner, “but it will be sufficient.”

It has previously been reported that tickets for parking infractions would be mailed to offenders rather than placed on windshields, but that’s not going to be happening yet, says Gardiner.

“Initially we were hoping to mail out parking tickets, but there’s been a bit of glitch in that, so we’ll be placing [the tickets] on the vehicles as we do today. Going forward, we’ve been looking at the feasibility of mailing them out after the fact,” she says.

Drivers with disabilities or limited mobility will also be subject to a change.

“We are anticipating keeping the [disabled] permits initially. Going forward we’ll introduce smart cards for people with permits, so once we start automating the ticketing process they’ll have designated smart cards to use for payment.”

Once the smart cards are implemented, Gardiner says, they will have to visit the pay-station when they park.

All of the upcoming changes have led to a fair bit of concern floating around Saskatoon — even from some members of City Council. Councillor Ann Iwanchuk, for example, expressed her concern earlier in the year, stating that she doesn't see this type of parking system working in Saskatoon.

But Gardiner says the majority of responses that her department have been getting are upbeat.

“I think overall we've had very positive response to this. People are excited to have different ways to pay for their metered parking. Right now we’re down to just coin, and [the meters] have bypassed their lifespan and aren’t working very effectively now. So the opportunity to have different payment options, we hear a lot of excitement about that.”

We’ll see.

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