Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Parking Anxiety

So the latest freak-out in the saga of Luc Ferrandez' eco-fascist municipal administration is his attempt to take control the parcomètres in the Plateau. Earlier, Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay announced that the administration and revenue from street parking would be turned over to the Boroughs. I am actually ill-informed of the reasoning behind this insane decision (from the mayor's perspective at least) and I can well imagine the boroughs pounced upon it.

Luc Ferrandez, our borough mayor and member of the ecologically-minded and forward thinking Projet Montréal party (with the radical platform of hey guess what urban cores are not giant shopping malls or waypoints for suburbanites to drive to and through), seized on the opportunity and announced an extension of parking meter hours, locations and a price hike. Merchants freaked out about this and put up a bunch of retarded posters. Today, the mayor balked and announced that he wasn't giving up control yet. I suspect the business lobby has a lot more power over Tremblay at the city level than they do over Ferrandez at the borough level. I can only imagine the many levels of pressure the business lobbyists applied to Tremblay and his people.

Emotionally, I can sympathize with drivers to some degree. The few times that I've driven around town and had to pay for parking, I'm shocked at how expensive it has become. You might as well use a credit card, because coins won't do the trick anymore unless you have a pirate-sized bag of loonies and toonies. On the other hand, compared to other North American cities I've parked in (Vancouver, San Francisco-Bay Area and New York; though this last has its own special craziness that isn't all bad), the availability of parking is really good here.

That being said, financially, if you can afford to drive a car, having to pay a bit more for parking should be well within your budget. I'm sure there are a percentage of people who drive for a living or need a car to get to work (though I am very hesitant to say "need" there given the ease with which people who have public transit, bike and foot options use it to justify their owning a car) who have very tight margins and a parking increase will cause them to sacrifice. I suspect that percentage is very low and most people can afford the hike.

I'm a resident here in the Plateau and cars for the most part are not welcome in my world. They are polluting and dangerous (no children play in the street on my residential road) and take up space. More importantly, I pay a lot of municipal taxes to live here. A big chunk of that money goes to road repair and road cleaning and I don't even drive. So if you are driving your car into my borough, then you need to be paying for the costs that creates. My block is full all day with people who work nearby. They pay nothing for that space. I'm glad they have jobs in my neighbourhood or come and do shopping. But they need to throw a little in the piggy bank to pay for the repairs to the road and the snow clearing, just like I do.

It's the reaction of the businesses that I don't quite get. For the shitty, faux-fancy restaurants on St. Laurent south of des Pins, I can see how they are worried about losing their weekend suburban meal tickets, but don't those people usually park in some pay parking lot anyway or take a cab? It was really surprising to see Sakaris have the anti-Ferrandez poster in their store. Most of their clients come on foot for sure and the ones who come in car are usually the older Portugues ladies whose husbands drive around the block while they buy the entire store. I wonder if a lot of these proprietors just got browbeaten by a few vocal leaders of this business group.

It's amazing how profoundly attached people are to their vehicles. It's an ignorance and short-sightedness that goes far beyond any other consumer item (about which we all have our blinders and loyalties to one degree or another). Car owners can seriously equate a parking rate hike to an attack on their freedoms, likening the Plateau administration to "maoist guerrillas". I kid you not, this was a comment over at the Montreal City Weblog. It used to be the left that tended to make those kinds of hyperbolic historic comparisons, but more and more it is the people who fear change who are starting to talk like this. Maybe they should spend a month with some real Maoist guerrillas (if there are any left, maybe in Tibet?) and then make the comparison.


Christian Jarry said...

I love the flexibility that my car gives me. However, I happen to accept that if I go into the city with it, I'm going to pay because I chose that method of transportation versus bus, train or subway. I pay because it's simpler and less time consuming.

I'm 100% for the price hike. I can understand that some people come with their car to do some big shopping but if it's only to go to a restaurant, why not take the bus or subway? Or park your car near a subway in Verdun or somewhere near a subway station but where there's more parking. I do that often.

I heard Ferrandez on the radio and he sure didn't sound like an extremist like the merchants are trying to depict.

Red Devil said...

Time for some push back from the people of the Plateau who agree with Ferrandez - like informing the businesses we frequent that it is not okay to oppose progressive policy. We need some of our own 'retarded' posters.

OlmanFeelyus said...

I did go to the petition site and posted my opinion. There were some saner people there as well who were asking logical questions, like who is going to pay for the services we need?

It's hilarious on that site. People are acting like their children are being taken away and sent to slave camps.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for paying for parking and gas - both of which are probably too cheap right now. I'd like to pay less for insurance, though.

Anyway, I think you're probably putting the blame in the wrong place if you think suburbanites are the primary cause of clogging up your neighbourhood. Almost everyone I know who lives in the city own cars, and most of them have to park on the street. The school are swarmed by big black SUVs in the mornings. These are people who don't live far enough to put their kids on a bus, but are too nervous to let them walk. Every time there's a ped day, the traffic is lighter. This isn't because of outsiders Suburbanites, on the other hand, don't really like to drive around the downtown neighbourhoods. They don't like hunting for parking, they don't like one way streets. They much prefer parking lots and taking the subway or walking around - if they come downtown at all. Most of them prefer shopping in malls and stay out of the downtown altogether.

Furthermore, a lot of the people you see driving around the city core during the day are not suburban commuters. The daytime traffic is filled with delivery people, molly maids, couriers, plumbers, electricians, etc. There are people who provide services to local residents and businesses. So, although you yourself may not have a car, I'm sure you still benefit from the roads. And I wouldn't be surprised if it was those people who are complaining loudest - increased parking fees affect their bottom line, and they sometimes can't adjust their price structure fast enough to make up for it.