Give me a car that fits in a suitcase
That way, I can shop downtown without the threat of a parking ticket
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.
Cornwall’s move to pay-and-dispay terminals instead of parking meters is bringing in more money.