Forgot to feed the meter? That could soon cost you double in Halifax
'We are probably issuing too many tickets because people aren't paying them enough attention,' says planner
Halifax regional council is looking at hefty increases to parking fines as part of the 2017-2018 municipal budget.
The last increase was in 2006, when council approved an increase to parking meter fines to $25 from $20. Fines for other parking violations, such as parking in a fire lane, went up as high as $100.
It is time to do it again, municipal chief planner Bob Bjerke told council Wednesday night.
"We don't have an effective deterrent with the level of tickets that we have, they are extremely low."
He said the recommendation is doubling the fines.
"It's the preliminary number at this point and that is what we put into the budget."
Staff estimate increased fines could bring an extra $1.5 million in revenues in 2017-2018, as well as in 2018-2019.
Last year, 171,000 parking tickets were issued in Halifax, generating $4 million in revenue.
Parking fines low compared to other cities
Right now, the city has some of the lowest parking fines in the country ranging from $25 to $100. In comparison, Moncton's range is $45 to $125 and Ottawa's is $40 to $120. In larger cities such as Vancouver, it is $70 to $500.
Coun. Waye Mason (Halifax South Downtown) is in favour of the hike. It has become as cheap to park on the street and pay the ticket as it is to pay for parking off street in a lot, he said.
But Coun. Tim Outhit (Bedford-Wentworth) said a sudden increase in fines could keep people away from the downtown core.
"I'm worried that this will be viewed as punitive. I truly believe ... that we really don't need any more excuses to keep people from coming downtown."
He said the people he represents in District 16 say they haven't been downtown in months because of a perception of the cost of parking or the tickets.
"I think most of us agree, when you raise transit fares, ridership drops. I'm wondering, when you raise parking fees or parking penalties, is there a drop in the people going [downtown] who don't have to?"
No change without consultation
A group of five urban councillors — including Mason, Tony Mancini, Sam Austin, Lindell Smith and Shawn Cleary — said the fines wouldn't be changed without public consultation.
"There has been no announcement yet because the details of the final fine structure are not set and will require a bylaw to be adopted by regional council. This will not take place until late summer/early fall," the councillors said in a joint statement posted Thursday on social media.
Bjerke said the public would be notified well in advance of any changes.
"Of course there is going to be a period of time where you introduce these things, that you provide a transition and lots of communication, help people understand what's coming so that it's not a huge surprise," he said.
"But really for businesses, they want to have a turnover in front of them, so there are parking spots available when you do come downtown. So that people aren't just overstaying their time at a meter and not worrying about it."
There's also a safety component, such as parking too close to a stop sign, Bjerke said.
"So it has to be a level where we are going to get that compliance. It's a very important aspect.
"Our hope is actually that we are not issuing the same number of tickets. The indicator right now is we are probably issuing too many tickets because people aren't paying them enough attention."