Nfld. & Labrador

Downtown worker worries St. John's parking ban will increase drunk driving

From the moment news of the planned pilot parking ban by St. John's city council hit social media sites earlier this year, Melissa Blackmore felt it wasn't a good idea.

City says it's a pilot project to help with snow-removal, but will people risk driving impaired over a ticket?

Downtown St. John's parking comes into effect Jan. 30 at 3:30 a.m. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

From the moment news of the planned pilot parking ban by St. John's city council hit social media sites earlier this year, Melissa Blackmore felt it wasn't a good idea. 

Three weeks later the area resident says her opinion hasn't changed. 

"It appears the City of St. John's is putting snowclearing above citizens' safety," Blackmore told CBC News on Sunday, adding that she thinks if people don't want to pay for parking or realize what options are available, impaired driving will increase, because they'll get in their cars and drive them home rather than leave them there and return in the morning.

Melissa Blackmore, who works in downtown St. John's, fears the ban will put more drunk drivers on the road. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

That's not the intent, though.

The city says the pilot project will help staff's efforts in removing snow on parts of Water and Duckworth streets, areas littered with pubs, clubs and restaurants.

Coun. Debbie Hanlon wants to see less snow on the streets and fewer impaired drivers. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Coun. Debbie Hanlon has heard others raise Blackmore's concern that if people can't park in and around the entertainment area then they'll get behind the wheel while they're impaired, but she doesn't accept it.

"We believe that responsible people will not drink and drive," Hanlon said.

"Right now Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest number of drunk drivers, so we are really hoping that this might actually help that."

Pilot parking project aiming to help snow-removal efforts isn't winning everyone over 2:09

Here's how the ban works.

On Jan. 30 at 3:30 a.m. any vehicles left parked on Water Street between Prescott Street and Waldegrave Street, and on Duckworth Street, between Cochrane Street and New Gower Street, will be towed at the owner's expense: $250 plus $25 every day that goes past without picking up the offending automobile. 

Hanlon says the money goes to the contractor doing the heavy lifting and is not "a cash grab" for the city.

Hanlon said people can park at City Hall, at the remaining 300 or so spots downtown, or in one of two parking garages. (City of St. John's )

The pilot project ban affects about 320 parking spaces and it will be lifted at 6:30 a.m., giving plow operators three hours to rid the empty streets of snow.

"A lot of people downtown have been waiting for this for some time," said Hanlon.

"Store owners, restaurant owners, and people who live and work downtown, we are getting lots of support from them."

Over the weekend city workers went around the parking ban area placing bright coloured fliers let drivers know of the upcoming ban. The windshield literature outlines where people cannot park and where they can find additional spaces outside of the parking-ban area.

Blackmore said she's concerned about her friends who work in the bar and restaurant industry who will now have to walk a lot farther to their cars in the early morning hours.

"There is no snow here right now, so it doesn't make sense," she said.

"To me, it would make sense after a big snowfall. Put the parking ban in place then for two or three days."

The parking ban pilot project will start at 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 30 and will run into April.