Towed and ticketed for parking downtown, hours before Oilers road game

An Edmonton woman is out more than $200 after her car was towed from Jasper Avenue on Saturday, hours before fans gathered at Rogers Place to watch the Oilers on a giant TV screen.

The city says it is happy with how the parking ban is working

Cheryl Chapin got a ticket and a towing bill that totalled more than $200 for parking downtown hours before Saturday night's road game for the Oilers. (Supplied)

An Edmonton woman is out more than $200 after her car was towed from Jasper Avenue on Saturday, hours before fans gathered at Rogers Place to watch the Oilers on a giant TV screen.

Cheryl Chapin went with a friend to listen to live music at The Needle at about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. She parked on Jasper Avenue, between 105th and 106th streets.

Chapin found the city's pay machine and bought parking until 6 p.m.

She said the machine didn't indicate she needed to pay for parking after that hour.
Chapin says the temporary sign on the pole beside the parking machine was taped up after she parked her car. (Cheryl Chapin)

"We were looking all over, to make sure we'd paid enough," Chapin said.

When she returned just after 6 p.m., she found her car had been towed.

"The parking guys were outside there and they were saying, 'Yeah, you should take that up with somebody,' " she said. "Suddenly they were taping up these signs to poles. You would have never seen it because we were parked back probably 200 metres from the sign and it was posted out towards the street."

The sign read "No parking here during event."

Temporary sign taped to pole after she parked

Chapin said it was a temporary sign taped to a pole and she didn't see it when she parked.

"I didn't know that playoff TV stuff [was] a big city event," she said.

The Oilers were playing in San Jose that night. By the time the game started at 8:30 p.m., thousands of fans were inside Rogers Place, watching the game on the arena's giant screen.

"I could see if [the game] was at Rogers Place, for sure, I get that," Chapin said.

But she didn't think a TV broadcast of the game would qualify as an "event."

Chapin said her car was towed right around 6 p.m.

"So they must have been sitting there, in wait," she said.

No message on parking pay machine

Chapin said by that time the pay machine she had used was covered up.

"It looked like a last-minute thing," she said. "All of a sudden, the booth was all covered up. When I went out and saw my car was gone, they'd thrown over one of those covers."

Chapin said when she paid for parking, there was no message that her car was at risk of being towed.

"You'd think that these parking-meter booths that they paid a fortune for would come up with a message saying 'Must be out of here' ... or something. Or they could have taped the sign to that, and then people are good with that. I'm good with it. I'd move."

Chapin phoned her daughter to take her to the vehicle impound lot just off Yellowhead Trail.

When she got there, she saw hers wasn't the only vehicle that had been towed.

"It was crazy," she said. "They were hauling in cars.

"So I'm thinking, 'Well, it can't be just me that's tuned out and didn't realize there was a parking ban for a playoff game. That, to me, wouldn't even be on my radar."

A spokesperson for the city said 64 tickets were issued on Whyte Avenue during the parking ban Saturday, and another 30 were issued on Jasper Avenue. A total of 28 vehicles were towed.

"We are working hard to iron out the kinks," Alison Burns, communications advisor for the department of citizen services, said in an email. "It's been a while since we had playoff festivities to plan around, so we appreciate your patience and understanding."

Chapin ended up with a towing ticket of $165.74, on top of a $50 parking ticket.

The experience has left her sour on coming downtown again.

"I kind of feel like, 'Why would I go downtown and support local business?' " she said. "I know the city wants everybody to go downtown, because the Oilers aren't always playing. I'm glad they're doing so well. It's a real boon for the city. But in the meantime, we need to support our local businesses and local music."

For its part, the city said it is happy with how the parking ban is working.

"It appears to be working very well," said Brian Murphy, general supervisor with parking services. "It's just a matter of the public recognizing that these bans are in place for the games."

The parking ban will be in place for every Oilers game, home and away, from 6 p.m. to midnight.

The ban covers Jasper Avenue from 100th Street to 109th Street, and Whyte Avenue from Gateway Boulevard to 109th Street.

The city is trying to get the message across to motorists through social media, signs on the streets, and by covering up the e-meters during the afternoon, said Murphy.

But the city doesn't have the ability to put digital messages on the e-meters, or on the parking app to warn motorists they're in zones that will soon be a tow-away areas.

"Going forward, we'll be looking at that," Murphy said. "But in this event, when we had the Oilers going to the games suddenly, so to speak, it's a short-term effect, and we couldn't do the technical support in the background to handle that."

Murphy said anyone who feels they were ticketed unfairly can follow the appeals process with the city.

About the Author

Nola Keeler is an award-winning journalist who has worked with CBC in Whitehorse, Yukon and Edmonton since 2000. She has worked as a host, reporter, news reader and producer for CBC. Send story ideas to nola.keeler@cbc.ca.