Residential Parking Permits and other horrors

Many houses in the central, oldest parts of the City do not have off-street parking. The City sells permits for these people to park on the street without violating the time limits usually put on curbside parking.

There are several problems with this approach. First, houses without parking probably have less market value, to either buy or rent, than does an identical unit with a driveway. This lower value makes housing more affordable to those who choose to be car-free. By creating an “out” from this disadvantage, the City reduces the affordability.

People who value walking to work are priced out by a city anxious to cater to those who want a shorter drive. A classic case of importing suburban values and imposing them on pre-suburban neighbourhoods.

The City further is extraordinarily lax in my west side neighbourhood about enforcing rules about parking on greenspace. Every year, a few more front yards disappear under asphalt , and the streetscape becomes a linear parking lot. What’s worse, each of these informal or formalized driveways further erodes legal curbside parking.

Throw in the desire of property owners to “save” by not buying permits, and there is a monetary and convenience incentive to convert greenspace to parking. Lax enforcement of parking rules is a complicit “OK” from the City. Front yard parking spaces don’t necessarily benefit tenants either: there are numerous spaces on the west side that rent for upwards of $200 a month to nearby office workers while the house or apartments are rented “without parking”.

The Preston-Carling CDP is headed towards some “naked streets” whereby the sidewalks will be flush with the street, no curbs, and both paved with the same look and feel. How will motorists recognize the “sidewalk” in order to not park on it? And with no curbs, isn’t this an invitation to park on front yards?

Some commercial properties play similar games. Buy the residence behind the commercial mainstreet, convert the yard into parking for the business owners and staff, and rent out the house. It’s a profitable land play. The City turns a blind eye to this conversion of residential properties.

More audacious are commercial property owners that supposedly have a parking lot for their own business but rent out the spaces monthly to office workers while visitors to that property find all the parking spaces full. A certain convention and meeting hall on Preston comes to mind … but they are not unique.

Problems can rise from large commercial buildings. The three-tower office complex on Preston at the Queensway has oodles of underground parking spaces, 99% empty during the evening rush hours and on weekends, while the merchants lobby the city for more taxpayer-funded surface parking. Bizarre.

The City is busy with CDPs and “mobility studies” all over the west side, but not one has nibbled on my repeated suggestions that it is time to review front yard parking trends, or to review the horribly inefficient condo parking situation.

Recall that when the Laurier separated bike lane was being opposed by the residents of Queen Elizabeth towers due to the supposed unavailability of visitor parking, the building itself was sitting on hundreds of empty — and unavailable — spaces. Somewhat inefficient. The old ways – 24-7 reserved spaces for each condo unit – have to go the way of the dodo. We have to find new ways.

Some of the new condos are mixed use buildings, with the daytime commercial spaces supposedly available to be evening visitor parking. This seems predicated on businesses being a 9-5, M-F operation. The City seems to be turning a deliberate blind eye to the obvious conflict of which spaces are available when.

Consider also that one of the largest proposed west side condos will have four to ¬†six floors of office space. Condo visitors will also access the spaces. Does anyone think the Chief Poo Pah of the commercial space will drive into the garage at 2pm and be delighted to find all the spaces full? Of course not, whether its for the top dog or the outbound salesperson, at least some of the commercial tenants will want reserved parking. Once it is reserved, it ain’t exactly visitor parking any more.

I’d like to see the City do a review of on-site parking rules for condos and commercial buildings. An ideal situation would be to take a land-rush area, like the Preston-Carling CDP zone (although there are other places this could be done) and do a pilot project to disrupt the current dysfunctional off street and on street parking situation.

I’m not thinking of the usual twelve month study either. It is rushing through a bunch of CDP’s and it could easily fund a quick study to see what other cities have come up with (and there are other cities much more advanced than Ottawa on this) and propose some fixes for Ottawa. Here’s a novel idea: hire a consultant. A fresh one, not one in the pocket of the Ottawa industry.

For all my complaints though, we haven’t seen anything like these spaces pictured below, from Boston. And I have seen similar ones in Paris. Posts and chains mark off private parking spaces so no one can sneek in while the owner is driving elsewhere.

oct 2013 044


7 thoughts on “Residential Parking Permits and other horrors

  1. You left out the descriptor “irregularly constructed” when discussing that hall… one would almost think it’s owned by a city planner or something…

  2. Providing parking in ‘human-scale’ neighbourhoods is a Sisyphean effort. Such locations will never be able to “compete” on parking; we need to encourage and strengthen the attributes which make such places desirable (scale, location, walkability) not undermine them by trying to make them more vehicle friendly.

    In Europe they take illegal parking very seriously. The fines are very stiff (often more than 100 Euros for a ‘trivial’ offense) and vehicles are often clamped and/or towed. A friend of mine parked in what he thought was a perfectly legal spot in Madrid but did not notice the street cleaning sign. The car (actually it was his brother’s car – and he had warned him to be careful about parking!) was towed, and the fine goes up *by the hour* until you reclaim the car. Picking me up from the airport ended up costing him close to 350 Euros! We should have just taken the train….

  3. I own a house without parking, in Centretown West, and I own a car. I also pay the city a pretty fair market rate for on-street parking. $60/mo is not cheap, and it’s not actually that useful. I cannot leave my car outside my house for more than 48 consecutive hours, for example (and no, moving it 30 feet down the street doesn’t count), so I can’t go away for the weekend (for example) without finding somewhere else to put my car. The tiny effect (there just aren’t that many houses in centretown west that don’t have parking) that situations like mine have on the overall street parking situation is not worth all the fuss, see the 186 James St. situation for example, that’s being raised over it.

    For me, the alternative was moving out of centretown, and, even though I work in Kanata, and my wife works in Barrhaven, we can’t bear the thought of leaving this neighborhood, and walking or biking or taking the bus everywhere else, or our pretty little house, even though it doesn’t have a driveway.

  4. We have the same problem in Toronto in my midtown neighbourhood. I’ve heard city councillors talk about the need to accommodate these cars by allowing people to pave over their front yards for parking, otherwise “they won’t want to live in the city”.

    But you know who will want to live there? Someone with fewer or no cars…exactly the kind of people we want living in the city!

  5. Received in email rather than comments:
    Just wondered if you’ve noticed where/how people are parking these days. They are rolling over sidewalks and stop sign corners to get to their little paved front yards and it’s getting quite ridiculous around here ((Bell/Willow/Lebreton). I’ve contacted the city to ask what the exact ruling might be and all I got back was a few pages of bi-laws that I couldn’t make heads or tails of. Nobody seems to want to enforce this new craze of plunking your auto wherever it fits regardless of them coming and going over the sidewalks and jumping around stop signs to get to that space. Not only does it look like hell but the safety aspect of backing out from where they are not expected is an accident waiting to happen. There’s snow removal too. I thought when the city prevented Glebe residents from having people park on their lawns during the Ex that it would put an end to such practices, apparently not. Have a stroll around the hood after folks get back from work and you’ll see what I mean. Sometimes I think that this old neighbourhood will never get better and the fact that it is at the low end of D. Holmes fiefdom can’t help.

    I always enjoy your blog. Thanks for caring.

    1. Yup, those dips in the sidewalk at intersection corners for disabled pedestrian access look like driveway ramps to selfish drivers!

      Why would they stop to think it might be dangerous to drive over the sidewalk at an intersection, where the pedestrians already have to be worried about how to cross the street?

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