Brownstein: Extended parking meter hours are 'bad for everybody'

There will be a continued exodus to Laval, the South Shore and West Island for shopping, entertainment and, oh yeah, free parking.

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This is rich: The city of Montreal, after backtracking in April, is going ahead on increasing hours for parking meters downtown beginning Nov. 15. The new hours are pretty similar to the ones previously announced, then withdrawn, in April.

The city’s rationale is “to promote greater traffic on commercial arteries and thus stimulate the vitality of the downtown area.”

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On the issue of promoting “greater traffic,” that’s a joke. City streets are virtually strangled these days, with construction run amok. Traffic couldn’t get much “greater.”

As for stimulating the vitality of the downtown area, it will likely have the complete opposite effect. There are enough constraints already keeping people away from downtown, this just may be the last straw. There will be a continued exodus to Laval, the South Shore and West Island for shopping, entertainment and, oh yeah, free parking. Not to mention business and restaurant owners as well.

As of Nov. 15, parking meter changes will take place in five sectors of the Ville-Marie borough — essentially most of the downtown core and Old Montreal. The new hours will be Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Sunday schedule remains unchanged, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

At present, parking meters are in effect 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays.

The installation of parking meter stickers announcing the change begins this month.

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Map shows area where parking meter hours will be extended downtown

In a statement issued Friday, Sophie Mauzerolle, Montreal’s executive committee member responsible for transport and mobility said: “We took the time to meet with our downtown partners to present to them the objectives of these new measures and to listen to their comments. The extension of the priced time slots will, for example, be more consistent with the opening hours of the various businesses and cultural institutions and aims not only to increase turnover, but also the availability of on-street parking spaces.”

Reaction was swift.

“I never got consulted,” fumed Costas Dimitriou, owner of the popular Sherbrooke St. W. Zante restaurant. “This is bad for everybody. I understand paid parking during the day, but after 6 p.m., there should be no parking fees downtown. This is yet another reason not to go downtown. It’s going to become a ghost town. Besides some tourists, there are few coming here from the outskirts of the city. It’s already expensive enough to operate businesses downtown.

“People are going to start going more and more to DIX30. They’ve got all the nice restaurants and shops — and they have tons of free parking.”

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Dimitriou has considered moving to more parking-friendly locations on the South Shore.

“Now, even further South, where there are palm trees,” he said.

Crescent St. pub owner Ziggy Eichenbaum said he was never consulted about the changes, either.

“And I don’t know any downtown merchant who was,” Eichenbaum noted. “I’d really love to meet just one downtown business owner who was consulted and who thinks this is a good idea for stimulating business. Guess the city is running out of cash, but this won’t help at all in the long run.

“People were already pissed off, but by extending hours from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., this will really have restaurant owners going: ‘Screw this, we’re going to take our business to DIX30 or Laval.’ This is a complete joke. This is not going to bring people downtown. What are these politicians thinking?”

Nor was SDC Montréal centre-ville executive-director Glenn Castanheira much amused upon learning of the changes.

Asked if he had been consulted by the city, he said: “Consulted is the wrong word. We were informed of the decision.”

Castanheira doesn’t see these new parking meter hours helping downtown.

“We’re not convinced with the arguments of the city,” he said. “We will monitor the situation. We’re really surprised they’re going ahead with this. It gives out a weird signal to consumers: ‘Come downtown, but at the same time, we’re going to charge you (9 p.m. to 11 p.m.) for parking, which has never been done before.’”

Castanheira is rather miffed that the downtown core has been particularly targeted.

“Ironically, the Plateau and the Sud-Ouest borough are going to have free parking (from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.), yet not downtown. This inequity really has us even more concerned. If these changes were city-wide, it would be something else. But I just don’t get it.”

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