Halifax councillors approved some changes on Tuesday to the way citizens pay for on-street parking in the municipality, and they’re considering making it free more often.
The municipality launched its new pay stations in October 2020, replacing parking meters on peninsular Halifax and in downtown Dartmouth.
Since then, staff have collected data on their use and brought recommendations for change to council on Tuesday based on that data, along with feedback from users and business improvement districts (BIDs).
Following the recommendation in a staff report, council voted to amend an administrative order to set new “hourly parking rates that reflect actual time-of day demand based on data” and remove the four-hour time limit for paid on-street parking.
The new rates are based on demand in specific zones and times of day, ranging from a high of $3 an hour to park near the hospitals and universities (Zone D) between 8am and 1pm, and a low of $1 an hour to park in any zone between 5 and 6pm.
The staff report, written by senior parking advisory Jeff Nephew, notes that it’s important to price parking correctly to both ensure there are a few open spaces and to “drive consumer behaviour to consider alternate modes of travel such as transit, active transportation, ride sharing, etc.”
“Offering parking for free, or at a highly subsidized rate, further incentivizes car culture and provides benefit to the individual user as opposed to the broader community,” Nephew wrote.
Coun. Waye Mason said businesses in his district want free parking, but the argued that didn’t bring more people to businesses downtown when the city tried it last year. Mason noted that BIDs like the Downtown Halifax Business Commission do have a validation program where businesses can refund parking paid through the HotSpot smartphone app.
Mason proposed an expansion of that program or the creation of a new free parking program, moving for a staff report “with recommendations and financial impacts for investing in projects to promote parking in areas with on-street paid parking” including a trial period testing out free parking on Thursdays and/or Fridays or covering some users’ fees on the app.
That motion became an amendment to the main motion, and the whole thing passed unanimously.
Coun. Patty Cuttell noted she hasn’t heard residents complain about having to pay for parking, but many have been confused by how to pay.
“I think that there’s a block of people not wanting to go downtown because they don’t know how to use technology as it is,” Cuttell said.
Examiner editor Tim Bousquet made a video navigating one of the pay stations:
And the municipality has its own, with less cursing:
Parking manager Victoria Horne said the municipality has been listening to complaints and making changes to the stations, including simplifying the steps and increasing contrast to make the screens more visible.
“In addition to that, I would say that anybody that has a negative experience with a pay station, or found it difficult and received a ticket or felt like they shouldn’t have received a ticket, we have been very lenient on the review component when someone provides a complaint,” Horne said.
Horne encouraged those residents to submit a claim for review. You can do so here.
Getting to the beach in Cow Bay
Coastal erosion is threatening the public’s only access point to Silver Sands Beach in Cow Bay, so council has asked staff to look into buying some land to create a new one.
The beach was once “the go-to ocean beach designation for people in Halifax and Dartmouth,” as Bousquet wrote in the Morning File in June 2018, but “is now just a short strip of gravel.” That’s because its sand was extracted for buildings downtown and elsewhere up until the mid-1970s.
People still use it though, accessing the beach through a narrow easement through private property next to the moose statue. Now, according to the staff report to council:
Extensive erosion has occurred along the beach. When the beach was privately owned, it was the subject of an industrial excavation operation that resulted in extensive removal of sand and rock over several decades. This activity and the beach’s direct exposure to the ocean has likely contributed to the extensive erosion and inward movement of its location. Consequently, the path to the beach has also been impacted and is being compromised by being increasingly moved beyond the bounds of the municipality’s easement. There have also been conflicts between local property owners and users of the easement.
That conflict was dog-related, as noted in this 2019 CBC story:
A Cow Bay, N.S., man who owns the land that is used as a footpath to Silver Sands Beach has had enough.
He says dogs are regularly running loose and their owners have not been picking up the mess from the pathway and the beach.
Council voted to ask chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé to look into buying property “for an improved or alternative access.” The city would pay for that through its parkland acquisition fund.
Street lights too bright?
Halifax will review the way it lights up the streets following a request from council on Tuesday.
Coun. Pam Lovelace brought the following motion to council, which passed unanimously:
That Halifax Regional Council request a staff report to review street lighting procedures and policies across HRM. The report should also include consideration to adopt a mechanism for street light removal and a policy on under – or over illumination.
Lovelace argued the municipality was creating light pollution with “over-illumination.” She said she understands that Halifax follows national standards designed to keep people safe.
“What I’m questioning though is the standards versus the kind of community context, and creating some kind of policy or mechanism that recognizes the removal of unnecessary illumination that ultimately benefits the environment and also creates a much better standard of living for those who are in the rural areas,” Lovelace said.
It’s also a waste of energy, she said.