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Parking fees waived, transit restricted: HRM intensifies COVID-19 prevention

Halifax Regional Municipality Chief Administrative Officer Jacques Dubé provides a COVID-19 update on March 19, 2020.
Halifax Regional Municipality Chief Administrative Officer Jacques Dubé provides a COVID-19 update on March 19, 2020. YouTube: Halifax Regional Municipality

The Halifax Regional Municipality is implementing sweeping new measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, affecting public transit, parking, permits and properties.

Until further notice, the city is waiving parking fees at all of its meters, and suspending the enforcement of hourly and monthly permit parking.

“I’ve heard stories anecdotally and firsthand of people who have been good samaritans in their community trying to help who have ended up with parking tickets,” said Mayor Mike Savage in a planning update on Thursday.

“This is not a time for us to be making it more difficult for people to do good things,”

READ MORE: No more in-person press conferences during COVID-19: HRM

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Residential permits will still be enforced throughout the HRM, but those with expired permits won’t be ticketed, according to the new protocols.

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“These steps are in an effort to support healthcare workers and residents seeking medical attention. Please be considerate of the duration of your parking,” reads a statement from the city.

If normal operations aren’t back on track by April, monthly parking permits from March will also be rolled over, officials confirmed. Tickets issued on or before Thursday are still valid and can be paid online, cheque by mail or in person when customer service operations resume.

Parking enforcement will continue, however, when it comes to road and pedestrian safety — including distance requirements from fire hydrants, stop signs and crosswalks.

READ MORE: HRM won’t rule out state of emergency declaration as COVID-19 cases rise

On Thursday, Savage also added new restrictions to public transit in an effort to promote social distancing.

Effective Friday, ferry service will be reduced to 30-minute service on both routes, and Access-A-Bus passengers are being asked to limit their trip requests to “essential trips only.” That includes doctors’ appointments, dialysis and prescription retrieval, among other vital errands.

“The health and safety of our employees is of paramount importance to us, but like every city that has a public transit system, it is the lifeline for many populations,” Savage explained.

“We certainly want to make sure that for those who most require transit, we are there as well as we can be for as long as we can be.”

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READ MORE: 2 more presumptive cases identified in Nova Scotia, 5 now confirmed

These measures come as the number of COVID-19 cases in Nova Scotia reaches 14, with hundreds of test results still pending.

The HRM is trying to offer some relief to those impacted by the pandemic, extending the deadlines for both its Community Grants Programs and Tax Relief for Non-Profit Organizations Program to May 15. The deadline to apply for the Grants to Professional Arts Organization program is now April 15.

It’s examining alternative payment options for property taxes due at the end of April as well, in an effort to support businesses and residents.

Special events permits have been withdrawn, and the city has moved to suspend some of its solid waste programs.

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