The Hamilton Spectator
Paid parking in Norfolk proved unpopular
Council to debate whether to run controversial money-making pilot project for a second summer
A review of a paid parking pilot project in Norfolk County last summer found many drivers did not understand how the system worked, thought the rates were too high, and hoped to never see paid parking tried again.
But the controversial project made money and did not seem to deter visitors, according to a staff report coming to council on Tuesday.
There were more than 27,000 paid transactions recorded between mid-June and mid-September on select lakeside streets in Port Dover and municipal lots in Dover and Long Point.
“Staff are confident that the implementation of seasonal paid parking did not decrease visitor usage, but rather provided an opportunity for parking turnover and revenue generation,” the report reads.
Fines for illegal parking were increased in those two communities and in Turkey Point, with steppedup bylaw enforcement leading to 813 tickets issued and a net revenue of $51,600.
The county fielded complaints about limited payment options, inadequate signage, and confusion over where and when paid parking was enforced.
County staff sorely underestimated the time they would spend explaining the project to residents — namely that there was still “ample” free parking available within walking distance to the beach and lakeside shops and restaurants.
On the plus side, the report found more vehicle turnover in Port Dover and Long Point than during a usual summer. But Port Dover councillor Adam Veri is unsure how staff reached that conclusion.
“We don’t know how long people were staying before, so it’s impossible to know” if the turnover rate improved, Veri told The Spectator.
“I don’t see how you can measure data and conclusively say it means anything if you don’t have anything to compare it to.”
Veri, former president of Port Dover’s Board of Trade, was skeptical of the paid parking scheme before he was elected last fall.
For years, Veri said, the Board of Trade had advocated for enforcement of the existing two-hour parking bylaw to no avail. That left drivers free to park in front of downtown shops and restaurants and spend the day at the beach.
“All the businesses wanted was the two-hour parking enforced. That was the solution,” Veri said.
Mayor Amy Martin, Veri’s predecessor in Ward 6, voted for the paid parking pilot last year.
“I’m proud that we were part of a council that took a step and tried something new, especially this contentious,” Martin said.
She has heard the criticism that the project was more about making money than alleviating parking woes.
“I don’t believe in that in the least bit,” she said. “The motivation is to take action on parking and find suitable solutions.”
County staff would like council to authorize a second round of paid parking this summer to gather more data and determine if the program should be made permanent.
“It’s an interesting recommendation given that the data shows the public is very much not in favour of it,” Veri said.