Parking should be free

Charging for parking happens because of necessity. You pay a fee to park in a place because there is a premium on space, you put in parking meters and time rules because you want to get a rotation and free up space for other people. You must pay to park because there is no other alternative.

Yorkton can’t quite justify making people pay to park, either downtown or at the hospital. Downtown, the issue is hardly a lack of parking, there’s plenty available at different times and locations. There are also many downtown businesses who will need the traffic to run their business and successfully attract clients, leading to the two hours free for everyone. The question becomes whether or not there is a purpose for having a two hour limit. If anything, it runs counter to the YBID Walk a Mile program, which encourages people to park and explore the city. It’s difficult to explore if you frequently have to run back to your vehicle in order to move it around.

With the hospital, the implementation of paid parking has merely meant that people now go further afield to actually park. Initially, it was a nuisance for the people across the street, who finally blocked off the alternate lot everyone used and effectively ruined. Now, it just means people who can walk further out do, effectively becoming a kind of tax on personal mobility. While an able-bodied man might go a block away, someone with actual leg issues will be forced to stay in the lot, and grumble about the fees. A lot that used to be filled on a busy day is now half-empty at the best of times, as people find alternate ways of parking.

In theory, it could be sold as an environmental measure, encouraging people to bike downtown instead of drive. While there is bike parking, it’s far from ubiquitous. On the other hand, by making everyone move their cars every couple hours, the rules are instead causing gas to be burned which would otherwise not be. Even if it did encourage everyone to bike downtown in the summer, this is still Saskatchewan, in the winter nobody is going to bike downtown.

The fees themselves are nominal, of course, which actually makes it worse – it becomes extremely unlikely that anyone is actually making money on these rules in the first place. If the amount of tickets written pays for the salary of the parking enforcement officer it would be surprising. If it was extremely profitable and paying for major infrastructure improvements, it could be justified in that way, but this is highly unlikely.

So why not just make parking free across town?  There is little benefit to the current system for residents, and it’s questionable if there is any benefit for the city itself or the health region. Going free would be the most effective plan just because the current pay model doesn’t make any sense, the city simply isn’t big enough to suffer from a major shortage of parking, and the city’s downtown could benefit from getting more people into businesses in the area. So why not just take away the fines and fees and improve life for everyone?

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