Matthew Pearson, Ottawa Sun
Free parking has prevailed on Westboro and Hintonburg's main drag — for now — but the transportation committee on Wednesday vowed to review criteria for introducing paid parking and consider scrapping the veto currently held by neighbourhood business and community associations.
An exhaustive two-year parking study of Somerset, Wellington West and Richmond concluded that adding parking meters along the corridor would be one way to solve parking woes along the popular shopping and dining strip.
On-street parking often exceeds practical capacity, the study found, meaning more than 85 per cent of available spots are taken. The situation causes congestion and forces drivers to hunt for spaces on residential side streets. In particular, Richmond Road west of Tweedsmuir Avenue and Wellington Street west of Parkdale Avenue are among the highest demand locations for on-street parking in Ottawa.
Relying on a "good body of literature" on how pricing can alleviate some of the pressure caused by parking demand, the ward's councillor, Jeff Leiper, was open to introducing paid on-street parking, which is already a reality on Bank Street, Preston Street and in the ByWard Market.
The committee heard the lack of paid parking in one part of the city is hurting businesses in another.
"You guys have a freebie and we don't," said Andre Schad. "It's costing us."
Schad, who owns Schad Boutique on Sussex Drive, said several businesses have moved to Westboro from the ByWard Market, where he claims enforcement of on-street parking is stiffer. He added the proliferation of bars and restaurants in the market, which has been raised as a concern by some, is due to the departure of retail shops who can no longer afford the rents.
"We're just looking for an equal playing field for all retailers in the city."
Paid parking wasn't recommended by city staff in Kitchissippi's new parking strategy because there was no consensus among the business improvement and community associations, which is required to make such a change. The Westboro Village BIA and Hampton Iona Community Association were both on board, but the Wellington West BIA, Westboro, Wellington Village and Hintonburg community associations all opposed paid parking.
Instead, the report proposes a number of other recommendations, such as harmonizing the maximum parking limit along Somerset, Wellington West and Richmond to 90 minutes between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week.
Because the necessary consensus wasn't reached — despite the fact city staff concluded paid parking was warranted according to the city's parking management strategy — there was no easy way for the committee or council to overrule.
Staff was directed to "review the oversight" of the parking management strategy as part of the end-of-term governance review coming up in late 2018.
Reviewing the process could remove the veto BIAs, community associations and councillors currently have, establish consistent rules and set clear criteria for when paid parking is introduced on a street, Leiper said after the meeting.
"Let's take the politics out of paid parking."
If the process ultimately changes, paid parking could come to Kitchissippi sooner rather than later, Leiper said.