London, Ont. council votes to return free parking promotion in city core

A parking meter in downtown London, Ont., June 14, 2017. Matthew Trevithick/980 CFPL

London city council has voted to return a pared-down free parking promotion to the city’s core.

Councillors voted 11-3 Tuesday afternoon to approve the new promotion, providing one-hour free on-street parking in the core area, along with one-hour free parking in municipal lots No. 1 and 2 in Old East Village via the Honk Mobile App until the end of the year.

The motion was originally brought to the community and protective services committee, where it failed in a 2-2 vote. The motion before council was pared down to just receiving the staff report and a communication from Ark Aid London, but an amendment added back the promotion.

Implementing the promotion would cost an estimated $300,000 for the on-street parking and $30,000 for the municipal lots. The funding comes from an economic development reserve fund.

The original promotion was brought on as a temporary measure during the COVID-19 pandemic to support businesses. It was extended last summer due to ongoing economic impacts, such as extended construction.

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“I see this as a small move with some big impact for the mom-and-pop shops in the core area,” says Ward 13 Coun. David Ferreira, whose ward encompasses the downtown area. “I do see this as tied into downtown revitalization, to make sure that we can have that competitive advantage for the local businesses.”

Ferreira added that an agreement or plan should be looked into so council doesn’t have to revisit an extension in the future.

Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis echoed many of Ferreira’s points, saying the promotion gives a little more runway to local BIAs and businesses.

“I’ve had discussions with businesses as well and said at some point we have to move away from this and look for another way to do this program,” Lewis said. “But I think there’s value right now in continuing to provide them with some support.”

While she was in support of the free parking, Ward 4 Coun. Susan Stevenson wanted staff to look into requirements for keeping the OEV lots free of garbage and “open drug use.”

“I will definitely be bringing forward whatever it is that I can do to help us get really clear on our standards for our municipal lots,” Stevenson said. “We are committed to a core area, to a safe downtown, to supporting incredible small businesses, arts and culture.”

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The municipality does have standards set for both winter and summer maintenance on municipal lots, according to city staff.

Ward 6 Coun. Sam Trosow, who was one of the nays on the vote, worries this will be the first in a series of extensions.

“My worry here is we’re just going to keep extending. There’s a reasonable possibility that once we get into having people expect this from their Honk app, it’s going to be very difficult to change it,” Trosow said.

In addition to Trosow, Ward 11 Coun. Skylar Franke and Ward 7 Coun. Corrine Rahman voted against the promotion’s return. All other council members were in favour.

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