The city manager in charge of parking enforcement has warned councillors on Ottawa's transportation committee that his department will have a hard time enforcing a proposed change to the length of time vehicles can occupy unmarked spots on weekends and holidays.

Currently, Ottawa's parking bylaw limits parking on most residential streets to three hours between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., seven days a week.

The city's transportation committee voted Wednesday to extend that limit, commonly known as the "three-hour rule," on weekends and holidays to six hours.

The idea behind the change, according to Troy Leeson, manager of parking enforcement for the city, is to prevent bylaw officers from ruining birthday parties and other get-togethers in residential neighbourhoods by leaving tickets on guests' cars.

However Leeson said the extension will make it difficult to penalize offenders who stay parked beyond the new six-hour limit, because bylaw officers' shifts are only seven-and-a-half hours long.

That will make it hard for officers to both chalk tires and issue tickets during their shifts on weekends and holidays, Leeson told the committee.

"It won't be without challenge," Leeson said.

Only 33 tickets issued

Leeson said if the vehicle is still parked when officers return the next day, they will be ticketed.

"From my perspective, the focus on our enforcement on weekends is more often the people who are staying the whole weekend without moving the car," Leeson said.

The fine for breaking the current three-hour maximum is $60. The city only issued 33 such tickets in 2016, Leeson told the committee.

Ottawa bylaw parking ticket

The city says the current three-hour limit is rarely enforced on weekends anyway. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder questioned whether it's worth having a limit at all if officers won't be able to ticket same-day offenders.

The city surveyed nearly 2,000 residents about the change and found 75 per cent in favor of extending the parking limit. Harder noted support for the change was lower in her ward, where parking is a major issue — about 68 per cent.

"There's still a lot more work to do about this," she said.

Expect 'surge of petitions,' councillor warns

Extending the limit could create problems for central neighbourhoods as well, where parked cars can clog narrow streets, Coun. David Chernushenko said. 

While most downtown streets have marked parking limits, some don't, Chernushenko noted. Neighbours can petition for parking limits on their streets if they become overcrowded.

"My worry is that we'll be signing up for a completely predictable surge of petitions," Chernushenko said.

Transportation committee chair Coun. Keith Egli urged staff to devise a plan to properly notify residents of the change, which still requires the approval of city council. Any changes to fines will need to be approved by the province.

"In the past we've had a difficulty with communications," he said.

The bylaw includes a few other changes: street hockey will officially be allowed, and a 45-second time limit on loading passengers into taxis will be scrapped.