Change is coming soon to on-street parking prices, after Halifax Regional Municipality’s budget committee voted to extend paid parking to Saturdays.
Metered parking is currently only in effect Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. The changes will affect downtown Halifax, downtown Dartmouth and Spring Garden Road areas.
The original proposal was to extend paid parking to weeknights as well, however business groups petitioned against the idea. Councillors voted against this move during Wednesday’s budget meeting.
“I think we have to say, at least for now, we have to be mindful of retailers, cultural industries and certainly restaurants who have been struggling,” said Mayor Mike Savage.
“Even as we come out of COVID, they’re still feeling the remnants of that.”
Debate was divided, however, when it came to Saturday parking fees — with turnover and availability being a consideration in the decision-making.
“Our on-street parking does support our small businesses, even if you have to pay for parking, because it encourages turnovers,” said Coun. Patty Cuttell.
“I think if you go downtown on a Saturday, for those of us who don’t have a weekend bus service and have to take our cars, it is very, very hard to find an on-street parking spot. Because people are parking there all day long.”
Coun. Iona Stoddard argued that the priority should be bringing business back to the downtown cores, before even considering charging for parking on Saturdays.
“Let’s get them back first, and then look at it next year. Because I still think that COVID, even though some restaurants are doing better, there are some that are still struggling to get back to where they were,” said Stoddard.
Coun. Shawn Cleary cautioned against that approach.
“We can’t paint everyone with the same brush and say, ‘Oh, well a few businesses told us they’re not doing well so let’s not charge for parking.’ Because next year they will say the same thing,” he said.
Last month, Sue Uteck, executive director of the Spring Garden Area Business Association, told Global News that bringing more barriers to parking in the downtown areas was not a good idea.
“If this was an HRM wide imposition then maybe we could accept it but other than that, it could be the difference between, I’m not going to go to that restaurant, I’m not going to go to that movie theatre and I’m not going to visit my friend,’” she said.
In a vote of nine to eight, councillors decided that parking on Saturdays will require payment between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Downtown Halifax Business Commission (DHBC) CEO Paul MacKinnon told Global News that the change will be coming into effect “pretty soon,” and possibly as soon as April 1.