When a Toronto woman Melissa Legge got a $150 ticket for dropping her injured partner off at a downtown office, the story made the front page of The Toronto Star. The passenger, who had to use crutches, was simply trying to get to work on time.
Nobody in Burlington has been hit that hard in the wallet, but tickets in the $45 range are common, as a result of congestion in the downtown area.
The City does offer an appeal process, but few ticketed drivers are having any success in making their pitch to adjudicators who are working on a zero tolerance policy.
With street reconstruction ongoing, the driving portion of Brant St. itself has almost become the only reliable parking lot in the downtown area. The traffic is bumper-to-bumper at mid-day. During rush hour on Fridays, drivers heading south on Brant and hoping to turn right on Lakeshore face another giant parking lot. There’s often a backup east to Pine Cove Road, three kilometres away.
Rita Hardy, the City’s supervisor of parking services, said Downtown Burlington has a defined parking area, which was put in place as part of a provincial regulation in 1968.
This makes it self-sustaining, which means it is not supported by tax. It also means that non-residential development does not have to provide on-site parking.
All parking revenues collected within the boundary go to the capital and operating expenses of downtown parking facilities. Any shortfall is offset by a special levy against non-residential properties within the downtown parking area boundary. Any unspent money goes into a reserve fund to pay for repairs, upkeep and improvements.
The City’s Defined Parking Area for the downtown stretches from Lake Ontario north to Baldwin St., and east to west from Martha St. to just beyond Locust.
The Bank of Montreal on Brant St. continues to allow employees to park in its parking lot when there is a perfectly good City lot right behind it. Compounding the problem, customers of restaurants like Joe Dog’s use the bank lot, often creating situations where the lot is full. There have been several near-miss collisions.
On the positive side, the City is upgrading its 300 parking meters downtown with new pay-by-plate machines that no longer require motorists to display tickets on their dashboard. Burlington’s existing on-street parking meters date back to the 1980s.
Brian Dean, of the Downtown BIA, said the old parking meters had their limitations.
“You had to have coins, and it was frustrating for patrons who use plastic,” he said. “
Dean said the new machines take credit cards. They allow shoppers visits to multiple shops because they take a three-hour maximum fee. He also said that as long as patrons punch in their licence plate number, they can move their cars to any other parking spots on downtown streets within that three-hour period.
“The cost of having to remember a few digits is worth the flexibility,” he said.
Shoppers can now also go online and purchase three hours’ worth of parking before they even get to the downtown area.
Joelle Cooling, proprietor of Joelle’s women’s clothing store, said introduction of the machines was a change everybody was anxious for.
“But change is always challenging at first,” she said. “Once we get through some of the growing pains, it will prove to be the right thing.”
Although they’re not within BIA boundaries, the parking lots at Spencer Smith Park and the Beach Strip also have been bulging at the seams lately, and not necessarily with cars driven by Burlingtonians out to enjoy the lakeside during the fine weather.
At the park it’s difficult to find a space on the west side, which is not reserved for patrons of the pricey Spencer’s At The Waterfront restaurant after 4 p.m. The restaurant was guaranteed those spots by a previous council when it opened 10 years ago, against the wishes of some Lakeshore Road residents.
Construction workers building the new wing of Joseph Brant Hospital have had the Beach Strip lot parking lot chuck-full on weekdays. However, as a result of discussions between the City and Joseph Brant Hospital, signs now have been erected notifying drivers that the space is for park users only.
Written by: Denis Gibbons