Transportation

No More Free Parking

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 23, 2008

I admit it: when I read about the city's proposal to standardize curbside parking rates across the city, I assume the Hamilton Spectator would shortly issue an editorial that made some conciliatory noises but ultiamately came out against the idea on pragmatic grounds.

So you may imagine my pleasant surprise on reading today's editorial, which actually endorses the idea.

Ancaster, Stoney Creek and Waterdown will not become ghost towns if people have to pay $1 an hour to park. Locke Street will not be deserted as a result of parking meters. Free parking is not the only reason people flock to these areas; they come because they can find the goods and services they want in a location with appealing ambience. Try finding an empty metered spot on Concession Street on a busy Saturday.

To mazimize the benefits of this proposal, I would recommend that the city go one farther and eliminate zoning by-laws that mandate "free" parking requirements at all residential and commercial buildings.

"Free" parking subsidizes the cost of driving, produces a false economy for suburban malls, and undercuts efforts to revitalize and intensify the downtown.

To all the detractors who will argue that getting rid of "free" parking will be a disaster, I offer only this: it actually works.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By LikeHamilton (anonymous) | Posted January 23, 2008 at 11:52:47

Something I wrote in Skyscrapers.com
Sorry I have a problem with the this. A lot of people want tolls on the road so the users pay. Transit riders pay a fare…user pays. So put a meters in and the user pays. So it cost you a buck to park on Locke Street for an hour. You can get a lot done in an hour. I have seen people come out of the antique shops with hundreds of dollars of junk (my feelings). So they pay a dollar or two to park. No they will not go to a mall with free parking if the only place that has what they want is on Locke Street or any other street. It is the destination and what is on the street that draws people there. Locke Street Bakery, Beach Road Meats and Bad Dogs are only on Locke Street. Ottawa Street and Conncession Street is always crowded and they have meters and off street metered parking lots. If it was the cost of parking that drew people to an area, then downtown Hamilton and the other areas like Locke, Westdale, Ottawa Street, Downtown etc would be boomtowns and turning away people and downtown Toronto would be a ghost towns. As to people parking off the main roads for free parking. These are not the fisrt area to have this problem. All they do is have a the streets marked for 2 hour parking and permit only. Allow the home owners to get there permit for free in the general area.
I am like everyone else. I want free roads, free transit, free parking, free ti-cats tickets etc. But life is not free. The only thing we can hope for is that it is reasonable.
And a question. How come the people who live in the richest area with the most expensive stores have free parking (excluding Locke Street)?

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By BJR (anonymous) | Posted January 24, 2008 at 00:16:37

Nothing is free? What is the value of putting parking meters in? From what I have read, the Hamilton Parking Authority, instead of being a large revenue generator for the city, hardly pays for itself.

So the only value that will come out of this is the meter makers will sell some more units to the city, and the City gets to hire some more parking enforcement officers. Yay!

I usually stop and get a coffee each morning at Locke Street Bakery on my drive in to work (I work in Burlington, live in Durrand area). Why there? Despite the extra inconvenience of having to find on-street parking than using the drive-thru, I'd rather leave $2.10 in the hands of a local independent merchant than those of Second Cup on Brant Street.

Put in the meters, and Second Cup in Burlington gets my money. Sorry Locke Street Bakery, but Hamilton seems to want to make it more and more difficult to support this city.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 24, 2008 at 09:55:17

wow. I'm surprised to hear someone who would "rather leave $2.10 in the hands of a local independent merchant" so quick to abandon that principle over a nickle or dime in a meter. I've got a feeling that at first some people might not like it, but they'll get used to it. I'm not aware of anyone who doesn't drive into Westdale for a coffee or lunch because of the meters. Or Ottawa ST or James N etc.... a few years it'll seem like the meters were always there, and now you'll probably actually be able to find a spot on Locke! That's the plus side.

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By OLDCOOTE (registered) | Posted January 24, 2008 at 11:47:48

Put in the meters, but for God's sake make them 2 hour meters. An hour is not long enough. The number of parking tickets I get in this city is frightening.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 24, 2008 at 12:15:08

I must confess, as a Westdaler, to having had my nose a wee bit out of joint over Locke St's special meterless status all these years. We have managed to survive not only with meters, but also the Spanish Inquisition of parking bylaw officers (their weapons are Fear, Surprise, and Ruthless Efficiency). Parking meters on Locke won't make an ounce of difference. For every customer like BJR, there will be three more moving in to take his/her place. Keep change in your pockets, and keep supporting your local merchants!

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 24, 2008 at 13:49:35

highwater, you're not the only one whose nose has been out of joint over this issue. It's been downright unfair to businesses in Westdale, downtown, conession, ottawa etc.... Locke being the only street with free parking. Heck, there's even meters on Dundurn St in some spots. Hamiltonians who complain about paying 50 cents to park their car always seem to be the first ones willing to pump out hundreds in gas money and parking for a single day in Toronto. Is your own city not even worth 50 cents or a buck??

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted January 24, 2008 at 14:29:58

Up until now I didn't even realize that Locke had free parking, unlike similar areas in Westdale, Dundas etc.

The cost of metered parking is insignificant compared to the cost of owning a car.

Weird that others seem to be obsessed with nickels and dimes, when they have V6, auto, alloys, sunroof, SUV, minivan, truck, etc, foregoing any such option pays for years, perhaps even lifetimes of occasional street parking!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 24, 2008 at 15:32:30

True, but you can't finance metered parking with easy monthly terms...

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By Rick (anonymous) | Posted January 24, 2008 at 18:01:24

You know that just because it is a $1 an hour does not mean you will have to pay an hour. If you are just running into Locke Street Bakery or Beach Road Meats and think it will take less than 15 minutes, it will only cost you a quarter. 25 cents to park closer than at some Tim’s or malls! I don’t mind 25 or 50 cents to get what I want. And it is cheaper than a ticket.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 24, 2008 at 18:19:25

I'm willing to bet that you're blowing more than 25 or 50 cents in gas money by sitting in a 5-minute long drivethru lineup at Hortons. It's weird the way we'll waste money so freely everyday of our lives on some things, but then turn around and act like it's the end of the world when something else costs a quarter.

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By Balance (anonymous) | Posted January 25, 2008 at 00:35:26

Hear me out. The problem with introducing meters to where none existed before is that fact that in Ancaster for example property taxes paid for this "luxury"....free on street parking and municipal lots. Now, these residents pay even more taxes and will be taxed again when they park in the downtown. If meters are to be installed then the taxes should correspondingly drop as these residents already pay for the maintenance and upkeep. Just another money grab. So sad.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 25, 2008 at 11:00:41

Balance....I think you're on to something. I would fully support Ancaster's taxes dropping in direct correspondence to the amount of money being brought in on parking meters. While we're at it, can we also please have residents of Ancaster start paying the correct taxes on their highways and subdivision roads? Those of us in downtown Hamilton would gladly let them keep their meter money if we can keep our suburban highway/roads money.

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By Bewildered (anonymous) | Posted January 26, 2008 at 04:26:30

Recently returned form a holiday visit to friends in the District of West Vancouver, the richest and yuppiest town in Canada where single family dwellings average $1.6M and condos are averaging $750,000, no industry and litle commerce with mostly residential tax-base and all free parking with two hour maximum. By-Laws patrol regularly and every third car on the street has a $35.00 ticket on the windshield. When I asked my friend why they didn't consider metered parking he looked at me as if I were nuts, the DWV gets more money from parking fines in a month than some cities get from meters in a year, and have no
meters to maintain to boot.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted January 28, 2008 at 03:31:21

Give us time options on the meters, or parking lots where we can pay for the time we parked, not for time we were not parked. (Or better yet, actual bus service that Works 7 days a week to Downtown!)

Nothing spoils a day out like having to run back to your parking meter just because you started to have more Fun than you thought you would. (Nothing except a parking ticket, cuz you got back 5 minutes too late to feed the meter! Exactly how do you get out of your chair at the Dentist's to run out & feed a meter?)

Sorry, not paying for a taxi to get to a bus stop, & then taking 2 or 3 bus' to get to Downtown, esp. in bad weather, then turning around & going through that whole process to get home. When the GHA gets fully functioning bus service on weekends, I'll take the bus & go downtown. Until then, I'll either shop locally, go to Burlington, or Mississauga.

(It ain't like Doon-Toon-Here is 'All That'! Everytime I find a fav. shop, it's closed/vacated the next time I try to visit it! Locke St., is one of the few constants in Downtown commerce. If you want people to pay to shop/visit/enjoy.... you have to have something worth paying for.)

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By John Hemmer of McMaster (anonymous) | Posted October 13, 2009 at 19:37:28

When you check property taxes in City Hall, you will notice that City Of Hamilton has the highest property taxes, higher than Stoney Creek, Ancaster, Flamborough, Waterdown, Mount Hope, etc.
Honestly, I refuse to pay for lousy parking in this filthy downtown, full of bums begging for money, and just simply disgusting surroundings.
Any store outside the downtown core has free parking. If Hamilton wants to cater to potential shoppers, parking should be absolutely free.
Would you shop at Fortino's or Sears if you had to pay on their parking lots, I DON'T THINK SO!
Hamilton "wake up and smell the coffee". This city is becoming a garbage can, a city dump. Downtown is dirty, nasty and scarry. Crack-whores buzzing around with their pimps at 11 pm, even on Locke street, bums begging for money, and if you refuse to pay, they curse you down.
And please, when I hear this nonsense about supporting this city by dumping money into parking meters, my stomach turns.
With these outrageous property taxes we already pay, what do we actualy get, almost nothing.
Dirty downtown, roads that are equivelent to 3rd world countries full of potholes, public transportation that is a joke, poor garbage pick-up, recycle program that only causes litter on the streets, poor infrastructure, and I could go on for a while.
Shame on you Hamilton. Instead re-vamping city hall building, maybe we should re-vamp the outdated and obsolete staff!

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By jason (registered) | Posted October 14, 2009 at 15:10:40

shocking that John Hemmer is from McMaster...

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