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Midland gets creative with paid parking options

Nine parking system considerations furthered by council, including reduction of zones, easier mobile app use and courtesy warning tickets
Coun. Cody Oschefski accepted a resident's request to demonstrate how controversial downtown Midland parking terminals are used in this 2021 photo.

In a parking program consideration report to council, it reads that “Midland is the only municipality in Canada with a pay-by-plate parking system that includes free time.”

Council addressed resident concerns over the contentious paid parking system implemented last year by looking at nine considerations by staff to ease the problematic transition, while acknowledging that their decision might have been the cause of the town’s problems.

At a recent regular meeting, the nine considerations were looked at individually with much discussion for each.

Currently, Midland hosts 14 parking zones in the downtown core, which caused problems when selecting the correct one through the Parkedin mobile app.

Council approved reducing those zones to four.

Zone 1 will be for downtown municipal lots; Zone 2 for on-street parking; Zone 3 at Midland Harbour; and Zone 4 at the Pete Pettersen boat launch. Purchased permits for a zone will allow for parking again within that zone as per the allotted time of the permit.

The current mobile app was noted as being user-unfriendly, and council approved an alternative. HotSpot is a mobile app used in other municipalities, and many on Midland council expressed affection for its simplicity and design.

“I use the HotSpot mobile payment app for parking in Barrie, and I love it,” Coun. Cher Cunningham praised. “It is simple, it is easy. I can update my parking from my meeting that went a little bit longer. …It is a much better app than the other one.”

“You can register your plate once so it is a tap-and-go process. You can pay remotely and never have to go to a terminal. …There’s a lot of convenience features for this system,” stated CAO David Denault. “It’s new to Midland, but it’s not new to the market.”

Added Deputy Mayor Mike Ross: “Tobermory probably has more visitors than any other community in the summertime, and they use this exact same parking system and the same app."

Two items regarding free parking and random free parking days were discussed.

Coun. John Main pointed out that in the report, a “loophole” of 9,041 free parking sessions were used by residents and visitors since July 2021, the highest selection of all payment options.

“We kind of created a bit of a mess here,” Main admitted. “We want people to come downtown and we want to have parking, but we’re kind of undermining our own parking system by having this.”

Denault reiterated later in the meeting that paid parking was one of the few municipal tools to gain revenue from visitors to help offset the tax levy.

Mayor Stewart Strathearn and Cunningham were in agreement that free parking should be removed entirely from Zones 1 and 2, but an amendment by Cunningham was voted down by the remainder of council.

An amendment by Coun. Bill Gordon to remove plate registration in favour of pay-and-display was also defeated.

As such, council approved that upon purchase of an initial parking payment, one free hour in Zone 1 or 15 minutes in Zone 2 respectively would be added to the time limit.

In an effort to support reduced resident and worker rates, council approved staff looking at options to evaluate paid parking during events, weekends and holidays.

“When I think of festivals like (Ontario's Best Butter Tart Festival) with those backlots, we could charge twenty bucks for parking on the day knowing people might not stay all day,” said Gordon.

“Anyone that comes in from away isn’t going to have a problem paying twenty bucks to park. We can really take some tax burden off our residents this way; we’re not going to be throwing it to our visitors because they’re used to paying this kind of money to park, and it’s convenient because they’re right downtown.”

A meeting between the BIA and parking supplier is also in the offing to determine whether businesses will offer credit to their customers.

“It would be at their cost,” clarified Denault, “so whatever they want to provide in terms of relief to their customer based on whatever reason they want as a retailer; that is certainly available to them.

"I think it’s one of those reasonable things which offers a business owner (a chance) to compensate loyal customers or a customer that makes an extra purchase at their place. Or if they just want to do it out of the goodness of their heart for whatever reason, they’re able to do that.”

A courtesy ticket will replace the parking relief program, which is expected to provide a yellow warning ticket to parking offenders. Additional signs are to be installed in Zones 1, 3 and 4.

Council also approved staff reporting back in May regarding local business groups including the BIA and Chamber of Commerce to consider a reasonable and financially responsible permit rate for downtown workers and other users of the system.

Strathearn cautioned that while the options worked for business staff during enforcement hours of Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., that downtown residents parking in municipal lots could face penalties in times of snow removal as an example.

“Not that that’s my problem,” noted Strathearn, “but I think you’re sort of creating a rod for your own back by allowing residents to buy permits, unless they expressly understand that they have to move the car when various bylaws require.”

A detailed staff report regarding parking is anticipated for late spring, along with recommendations to clarify payment costs and other fine-tuned elements.

The Parking System Considerations report containing full staff recommendations as well as resident feedback and accumulated statistics, can be found on the Town of Midland website agenda page.

Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.

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Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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