Halifax to offer free parking as part of $184K plan to lure visitors downtown
'Next few months are crucial' to welcoming residents, tourists back, says HRM parking manager
The Halifax Regional Municipality is coming up with parking incentives to help businesses recover from the pandemic and encourage residents to start visiting downtown areas on both sides of the harbour as the province reopens.
The total cost of the programs is $184,000. They include offering free on-street parking between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. AT on Thursdays and Fridays from June 17 to Sept. 11 where parking is permitted.
"The next few months are crucial to ensuring both local residents and tourists feel welcomed back to the downtowns," Victoria Horne, the municipality's parking manager said Tuesday in a presentation to regional council.
Visitors to downtown areas will also get a one-time break on a parking ticket this summer. Instead of a fine, they'll be issued a warning.
Over the next three months, the municipality will cover the transaction fees for people who use HotSpot, a third-party app, to pay for parking. It will also pay the startup costs and subscription fees for 200 merchants who take part in a parking validation program, which will be administered by the downtown business associations.
"I think this is a big move and I think a big move is warranted because we had COVID and we introduced a new parking system," said Coun. Patty Cuttell.
Coun. Waye Mason, however, asked for another staff report on covering some of the costs of the merchant validation program.
"It's important to manage people's expectations because we may not be allowed to do this," he said.
There will also be a marketing campaign to highlight parking availability and further explain the new pay station parking system.
Councillor floats free ferry service
Councillors endorsed all the staff options, but other ideas were floated that will be studied in a separate report due next month, including a proposal from Coun. Sam Austin.
Austin, the councillor for Dartmouth Centre, asked staff to consider providing some hours of free ferry service.
"A lot of people do get around by car, but the ferry is an integral part of the two downtowns," he said.
"Some sort of targeted promotion would be appropriate, maybe around the lunch hour."