A parking pay station in Dartmouth in September 2020. — Photo: Twitter/@hfxgov Credit: Twitter/@hfxgov

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:

YouTube video

And the municipality has its own, with less cursing:

YouTube video

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.

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. I have complained to HRM and downtown business about those parking machines .I was offered a comp from a restaurant downtown for my trouble $50 bucks . I did not take it ,take money from a restaurant !!!
    when they struggling !
    These machines are rejigged parking lot machine ,hard to use and HRM got ripped off again !

  2. Very amusing that Tim hid the entry of his plate number, but DGZ768 shows plainly later in the video (Twice!)

  3. We have begged our city council rep to get the city to lower the lighting, or remove it from our street. We live near Dalhousie on a modest side street and at night our street is lit with the same nerve jarring, depressing glare of a slum street in Delhi. Remember the days when you could show your children the stars? Not any more. It’s so tiresome to read the pretentious self congratulations of being a “world class city” when clearly if city council members had been to world class cities – Copenhagen, Boston, Paris- they would get ride of this cheap offensive chain fence glare !

  4. Downtown businesses that want free parking are deluding themselves if they think a shortage of parking is costing them customers. They have plenty of potential customers who live or work nearby, but find it difficult or unpleasant to walk or cycle to the businesses because of sidewalk closures and traffic. They need to take a lesson from shopping malls: people don’t mind walking in a pedestrian friendly environment (and they’ll drive from downtown to do it). There are some downtown businesses that routinely block the bicycle lanes in front of their stores – that’s not winning them any customers. If downtown businesses want customers, prioritizing car users is not the way to do this.

    As for parking and meters, my downtown street is near metered parking and a paid garage. The meter spaces are almost always empty, and the garage is never full. Commuters drive an extra block or two to park for free. In theory there is a two-hour maximum on the street (during the weekdays) but it’s rarely enforced, and the occasional ticket is cheaper than paid parking. Evenings and weekends it’s literally a free-for-all, as people park everywhere, legally or not, to avoid paid parking. Pricing parking to encourage other transportation options must include enforcement of parking regulations (and viable options to driving, like better bus service and better pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure).