An Open Response To the BIA About Parking

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The Downtown Midland Business Improvement Area (BIA) held their annual general meeting last night and submitted some analysis to Council for consideration ahead of our discussion about downtown parking this coming Wednesday.

There are many options on the staff report that Council will consider, including an option to eliminate the paid parking downtown entirely, and either have all the taxpayers in Midland subsidize it, or have the downtown building owners subsidize this service to their shops, services and residential tenants – sparing the broader tax base from paying for the costs of the lots.

You can review the staff options and my recommendations by clicking here.

The BIA has considered the report and submitted a letter to Council on September 26th 2023 (click here to read it) and also a visual presentation submitted to Council this morning, that outlines their position (click here to see it) and I have replied to Nicole French, the BIA Chair and wanted to get that reply into the public realm as well.

Hi Nicole,

Thanks for the presentation and sorry I missed the AGM last night.  I did not get an invite and only saw it on the Downtown Midland Facebook page yesterday afternoon.  Unfortunately, I had a conflict with another meeting about cost recovery efforts through a MAT implementation in 2024.  That went well, but I could not get away in time to attend the AGM.

I have reviewed the comments and they align with what I have been hearing for more than two years now.  95% of the people I speak to (residents and visitors) want free parking but they also accept that it isn’t really free and the question boils down to “who” pays for it.  Most believe that it should not be the broader taxbase as many don’t shop downtown enough to justify paying for it, or they go after hours when it is already free.  Downtown merchants have been very vocal in the disdain for the parking machines and the system and have blamed it publicly for their lack of traffic and slumping sales.  My proposal will eliminate that barrier (perceived or real).

A few observations:

What happened to the BIA subsidizing parking lots downtown?  Are you aware that you used to do this for many years?

I will be looking into when the BIA stopped subsidizing the parking lots year-round via the Midland Parking Authority and when they stopped offsetting the costs of the two weeks of free parking before XMAS.  The BIA has been asking for a full month for many years now and there is no financial pledge from the BIA.

Parking passes per car, somewhere between $200-400 / year / car would FAR exceed the breakeven cost of $800/building owner/year to allow for fully free parking.

If we return to X hours free in the lots, we must go back to the tire chalking game and people moving their cars around every few hours.  We did that for years and I finally got that to end with free back lot parking.  Returning to that is not cost-effective use of staff and simply results in the parking shuffle again IMHO.  I propose a simple cost recovery for the true costs of those lots.  We can’t keep losing money on them.  We have developers who would love to buy some of these lots for high density housing builds downtown, or to own the lots and monetize them for themselves.  We are trying to get taxes under control, get housing built and stop losing money on capital assets and core services.  Someone is going to pay for these lots, the question is who.  My proposal is that we spread those costs among those who benefit from them, in the least intrusive way – on a break-even basis since profits don’t seem possible right now.

If we maintain on street parking, we will need new machines.  These screens are not changeable.  They are not defective so we can’t get a refund.  These exact same machines are used all over Canada and I use them weekly in Barrie (who has hundreds of them).  If we get rid of them and get out of the contract, we’d only have to buy new ones (these were over $500k) and enter a new contract with some other service provider for the new machines.  Good money after bad.

As for turnover, it should be up to the building owner to deal with tenant behaviour and not the Town.  If you see staff from your business or others camping in prime spots instead of parking in the back of the lots, then the onus is on you to manage that.  Bylaw will be used for fire route, no stopping/parking zones etc and can focus on other bylaws that support town harmony and health.  I’ve been hearing calls for free parking from the BIA for years.  Now that we are on the cusp of granting that request, I find it odd that the BIA stance is changing.

I will be looking to the BIA for leadership on this and expect to negotiate a return to a funding agreement that will see BIA (and the other 2/3 of the full downtown core) help offset the costs to these assets that primarily benefits them.  This is fair and responsible.  When you see the financial pressures we face and the reality of non-resident fees looming for 2024, we can’t simply keep losing money or throwing good money after bad on a system that is universally loathed.

Happy to discuss this with you in advance of the meeting,


I look forward to the discussion around the options this Wednesday evening and am confident that we will find a solution that supports our downtown while being financially responsible to the broader taxpaying base in Midland.