Give me a car that fits in a suit­case

That way, I can shop down­town with­out the threat of a park­ing ticket

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - FORUM - ÉTI­ENNE SAINT-AU­BIN

All this talk about self-driv­ing cars puz­zles me.

Be­cause what we re­ally need is a car that you can put in a suit­case. At least that’s how I feel when I go down­town.

This week, I needed to buy a gift for a young per­son, and as I have al­ways had ex­cel­lent ser­vice and se­lec­tion at the Kid’s Korner toy store right here in Corn­wall, in our very own down­town core, that’s where I headed. I felt good about it – even right­eous maybe, at the pos­si­bil­ity of both get­ting some­thing nice and quickly, at a pleas­ant place, but also of en­cour­ag­ing a good lo­cal small busi­ness. So off I went.

Now dear read­ers, it will be im­por­tant to note at what time I ac­tu­ally got there, be­cause this is an im­por­tant part of the story. It was about 3:30 p.m. The dark­ness of the con­firmed win­try evening was al­ready begin­ning to set in.

Whether we like it or not, peo­ple still love mov­ing about with a car, and I have to ad­mit I am no ex­cep­tion. Yes, I feel guilty about it, but it is just so con­ve­nient, and I had a lot of places to go to that day, as I do other days.

That’s why I usu­ally drive around with my own per­sonal blend of gas and guilt.

So not yet hav­ing that car in a suit­case, I was in need of a park­ing space nearby. There be­ing none on the street, ( be­cause there are by de­sign very few park­ing spa­ces on Pitt Street), I sought out off-street park­ing in a mu­nic­i­pal lot. Lo and be­hold there was a park­ing spot avail­able.

What fol­lows is not a trial run for throw­ing my­self on the mercy the court, but I thought I saw there was time left on the meter, and know­ing as well that I would be quickly able to find what I needed in the store, I parked my car with no fur­ther ado.

I was es­pe­cially mind­ful that a Christ­mas park­ing amnesty had been re­cently de­creed, which was to start at the fate­ful hour of 4 p.m. Given we were but 30 min­utes shy of that hour, I some­how thought the lo­cal park­ing gen­darmes might re­lent a bit. Lit­tle did I know there was no room for such mercy in our down­town core that day.

So, as you ex­pected by now, when I came out with a good lo­cal pur­chase in hand, there was a freshly minted park­ing ticket on my wind­shield.

What is the moral of this story? Here it is.

With­out proper park­ing, our cen­tral com­mer­cial core will al­ways lose out to out­ly­ing en­ter­prises, par­tic­u­larly big box, (and cer­tainly not small busi­ness) where free and am­ple park­ing is abun­dant.

Com­mer­cial cores give a city its dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter. It cer­tainly is the essence of our com­mu­nity.

A lot of money has wisely been in­vested over the years in Corn­wall to im­prove the ap­pear­ance of build­ings there and as a re­sult, there is a grow­ing sense of pride in our com­mu­nity. Pre­serv­ing this char­ac­ter through the nur­tur­ing of such cores is an ur­ban plan­ning im­per­a­tive. Park­ing is an ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial part of such plan­ning, and it’s time to ad­dress this se­ri­ously.

Lo­cal small shops are not in the busi­ness of just look­ing good, and “giv­ing dis­tinc­tive char­ac­ter.” They aren’t mu­seum pieces. They need to make money to earn a liv­ing. They need cus­tomers. And for that, cus­tomers need to get to them, and to get to them, cus­tomers need park­ing.

Mu­nic­i­pal park­ing en­force­ment has two ap­par­ent pur­poses. One is to make money to help make our larger ends meet, and the other is to reg­u­late park­ing so that it is not taken up ex­clu­sively by a few and is avail­able to the many. We know that un­con­trolled free park­ing would not nec­es­sar­ily re­sult in park­ing be­ing avail­able for clients and vis­i­tors.

As the Cana­dian Park­ing As­so­ci­a­tion sug­gests, thought needs to be given to a blend of free park­ing with tim­ing re­stric­tions and en­force­ment. As for mak­ing our city’s ends meet, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber lo­cal busi­ness owners al­ready pay a sub­stan­tial amount in taxes which should be con­sid­ered as the fund­ing ba­sis for a free park­ing with lim­its sys­tem.

Noth­ing in this story was meant to be overly crit­i­cal of those who en­force the cur­rent park­ing sys­tem. They were given a job to do and they do it ac­cord­ingly.

But when po­ten­tial spenders must de­cide be­tween shop­ping has­sle-free and other­wise at big­box stores, and park­ing down­town with its com­plex ma­chines that are def­i­nitely not user-friendly, and deal­ing with in­ten­sive mon­i­tor­ing, the down­town will al­ways lose out, and as a re­sult, in the long run we will be the losers too.

Now, let me fig­ure out where to pay this fine.

ALAN S. HALE/CORN­WALL STAN­DARD-FREEHOLDER

Corn­wall’s move to pay-and-dis­pay ter­mi­nals in­stead of park­ing me­ters is bring­ing in more money.

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