After a lengthy debate about the proposed changes to the parking rates in Midland, that resulted in a 3 week deferral for staff to ponder the input from Council; residents and visitors can enjoy free parking while we wait for the next report.
In the days leading up to the meeting, Council received over 55 emails from residents, businesses and even neighbours who shop in Midland and are impacted by Midland policies. The overwhelming theme were pleas for us to fix the system and provide some free parking to help revive our downtown core – which has suffered both from the King Street reconstruction and two tandem years of the pandemic.
I have taken countless phone calls, online chats and email conversations listening to concerns and trying to find compromises that serve the financial needs of the Town (to help reduce the tax rates) and the glaringly obvious needs of the downtown merchants who have suffered tremendously over the past two years. The overwhelming sentiment is that people are avoiding the downtown because of the parking meter implementation and the streets and lots offer undeniable evidence that those are not just social media negativity and idle threats to shop anywhere other than downtown.
I forwarded at least 55 emails to the CAO today (most were only addressed to Councillors) and offered the following summary of the feedback I have curated over the past few months and in the days leading up to the meeting last Wednesday.
For what it is worth, here are my top 10 thoughts and suggestions – curated from a personal perspective, shared experience, and most importantly, the feedback I continue to get from the community.
- Paid parking is something we’ve had for a very long time and clearly helps offset the Town’s operational budget – especially in relation to parking maintenance.
- The $1/hour fee is not exorbitant, and the majority have no issue paying – if it is easy and if there are also free options.
- On-street paid parking is not an overreach IF there are free options (7 days/week)
- Back lot parking should go back to being free (at very least the main lot that serves the church, library etc)
- The machines should go to pay & display to reduce the interaction steps to pay (no more licence plate tracking – unless using the app where it is required to know who paid)
- The app remains an option and the licence plate forms part of the process, along with digital payment
- The machine’s screen readability issues must be addressed.
- Less steps to get from first approaching the kiosk to getting the pay and display ticket (walk up, drop in a toonie and press print for the ticket)
- Make payment options simple – coin or tap credit card.
- Address the issues with the buttons (touch sensitivity issues appear to be random and a common complaint)
I’d add that a yearly parking permit for residents is reasonable but not this year… we need to get the above in play and phase in a permit approach.
The boaters (assuming we decide to keep running the marina – we run it at substantial loss each year) will need to have a dedicated parking area (1 space per slip) so if they pay a premium, they know they will have spot. It should be closest to their docks and dock carts should be available to them. Our marina staff should be available to help with catching lines upon boaters coming/going, hauling the carts and returning ½ of them to the lot and other half by the boats for unloading. Add some service to the boaters and they will feel more like they are getting something for the increased spend.
I have sent the above to the CAO and we will see how much, if any, finds its way into the next report to Council.
If you are interested in the debate from last week, and to hear the discussion and the voting, you can watch the pertinent section of the meeting below: