Residents of Exchange group decry parking problems

Centre Venture, Winnipeg Parking Authority unresponsive, say critics

Exchange District residents and business owners are unhappy with parking in the area. Dylan Hewlett

Exchange District residents and business owners will have to wait until summer to find out how the city plans to address controversial parking policies that have resulted in the closure of one business and the widespread annoyance of neighbourhood residents.

Parking in the Exchange District has been difficult for residents and business owners in the area since the Winnipeg Parking Authority (WPA) doubled the price of meter parking on high-use streets in the Exchange District on Nov. 13 and stiffened the criteria for the residential parking program, which ensures Exchange District streets are no longer eligible for residential parking permits.

Though many residents offered parking suggestions at the Exchange District Community Transportation Meeting on Nov. 21 - including many members of the Residents of the Exchange (R:ED) community association - city officials have been unresponsive.
Alissa Clark, a City of Winnipeg spokesperson, said the WPA might not offer residents alternatives to the onerous parking policies until summer.

“Rather than rush out a ‘band aid’ solution, our goal is to develop a long-term solution that will benefit the various users of the area,” Clark said.

John Giavedoni, executive director of R:ED, an association dedicated to advocacy and community in the Exchange, said the city hasn’t told him when to expect parking alternatives.

Giavedoni and other residents expected to hear such changes to current parking policies at the Nov. 21 transportation meeting, which was organized by Centre Venture.

However, Centre Venture, WPA, Impark, and Peg City Car Co-op representatives were instead only looking for resident suggestions.

At the meeting, residents suggested the city make casual evening parking available in privately owned Impark lots.

The residents also advocated for the purchasing of land title on parking spots and allowing residents to share allocated spots by booking them online.

No direct policy has resulted from those suggestions.

MaryLou Driedger, an Exchange District condo owner and member of R:ED, recommends the city reinstate the residential parking program for the neighbourhood.

“When we purchased our condo we had no idea the residential parking program would be discontinued,” she said. “Had we known we might have had second thoughts about buying. I have elderly parents and my mother is in a wheelchair. When they come to visit, particularly in winter, we park on the street and let them have our indoor spot. Without the residential parking passes this will no longer be possible.”

While residents wait for the WPA to come up with parking alternatives, Joe Kerr, owner of Pixels 2.1 on McDermot Avenue, is shuttering what constitutes the largest dedicated photo gallery in Western Canada due to parking issues.

Kerr estimates his customer traffic has declined by 70 to 80 per cent since the WPA changed the residential parking pass and doubled the fee for 143 parking pay stations from a loonie to a toonie per hour in parts of downtown and in the Exchange.

“It’s going to take six months for people to get used to the new parking rates, I can’t afford it,” Kerr said.

Jennifer Gauthier, manager of Urban Forest Coffee Shop and Lounge on Albert Street, has noticed fewer customers since the parking fee doubled on the street.

“They’re always talking about revitalizing down here and then they go do things like that so it brings less people down here,” Gauthier said. “It makes it harder to live down here, to shop down here, to visit down here.

“There’s not enough parking spots plain and simple.”

Pam Kirkpatrick, the creative director of bakery Cake-ology on Arthur Street, argues the issues faced by residents and businesses are more the consequence of Winnipeg’s culture rather than a lack of parking.

“There are parking spots all over the place, all hours of the day,” she said.

“People will park and walk seven city blocks worth of parking lot space across a giant strip mall development in the suburbs to get to the box stores, but in the Exchange we all have to park out front of the exact place we are going to?”

Published in Volume 67, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 16, 2013)

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