Coincidence or conspiracy? Yellowknife commuters can only wonder at the perfect storm of events around downtown parking last week, a perennial hot-button topic in the capital.
The city rolled out the first phase of its two-year program to add 328 new parking meters to the downtown core. Installed at a cost of $328,000, they are expected to add $287,000 a year in revenue.
The new meters had barely clocked their first cars when Parking Day celebrations broke out on Friday and when, in an effort to encourage public transit, the city made bus travel free for Car Free Day on Monday.
Intended to draw attention to the need for more open spaces in city centres, Parking Day attracted 15 demonstrations on Franklin Ave. and 49th St. with locals putting parking spaces to other uses.
Ecology North plugged a meter to demonstrate how to reduce energy consumption through cold-water washing, line drying and composting organic waste, and to draw attention to the space that cars occupy.
“Maybe we can use that space for playgrounds and parks instead of cars,” said Craig Scott, an Ecology North spokesperson who declined to weigh in on the new parking meters.
“We think people should walk, bike and take public transit to work whenever possible. We realize cars are necessity sometimes, but we’re in a small, compact city. We don’t need as many parking spaces as we have.”
The addition of parking meters was driven by downtown merchants who wanted to reserve spaces for customers.
Councillor Adrian Bell said the change will make areas currently without metered parking more attractive to businesses, and doubts it will drive potential customers to shopping centres on Old Airport Rd.
“I think you would be challenged to find people who have ever parked in those areas and then walked to shopping near Franklin Ave.,” Bell told The Journal in an email.
The move will squeeze office workers who have enjoyed free parking. Nine-hour meters will be available for $10 a day. Residents who can demonstrate that they have no alternative to on-street parking will be given annual parking passes.