City council is moving to crack down on parking violations in an attempt to reduce the number of drivers taking up disabled parking spaces.
Last night’s regular council meeting was the second one since Christmas in which parking issues were raised, and the discussion concluded with councillor Lynne Christiansen tabling a motion that staff look into possible enforcement strategies including random vehicle checks initiated either by the RCMP or by increasing the hours worked by a municipal bylaw officer.
A presentation by resident Helmut Giesbrecht initiated the discussion. Giesbrecht listed off a number of situations where he had found parking spots already taken up by vehicles without disability permits.
“My adventures into the issues of the handicapped is actually quite recent,” Giesbrecht told council, leaving his walking aid by his chair when he stood at the podium. “So I am keenly aware of the issues people face.”
“I’ve had a number of experiences I could go into, sometimes in the course of a single day, issues that I can’t understand how they could be allowed to continue.”
He said there is a reluctance to report parking violations on the part of business owners and that a $40 fine as dictated by provincial traffic laws and $25 municipal fines are not enough to be an effective deterrent.
“Parking downtown is a problem. There is no enforcement of any kind since about the 1990s,” said Giesbrecht, a former Terrace mayor and MLA for the provincial Skeena riding.
Councillor Marylin Davies said it is frequently the case that she notices taxi drivers parked in spots for the disabled.
“One of the worst offenders are the taxis. They will park in every handicap parking space they possibly can.”
She added that some downtown businesses have complained about the high percentage of parking spaces reserved for special needs.
At a council meeting earlier this year, councillor Brian Downie had suggested using undeveloped space on the old Co-Op lands on Greig Ave. for parking, and there had also been discussion at the Terrace Downtown Improvement Area Society (TDIA) about trying to promote a policy that will free up locations for parking in the downtown core.
While last night’s debate focused on the problems with disabled parking violations, a meeting earlier this winter looked at congestion in downtown spots because employees of downtown businesses and others were using them for extended periods.
Councillor Bruce Bidgood said that a comprehensive parking review is in order.
“Perhaps it’s time we looked at parking as an issue for at least the downtown area or the horseshoe area,” he said.
Christiansen and councillor Stacey Tyers both agreed that a blitz to fine offenders could work, although doubt was cast upon the municipality’s actual powers to do so.
Councillor James Cordeiro said checking would be easy enough and that TDIA wants enforcement.
“It doesn’t have to be a full-time person,” said Cordeiro. “You just need one person with a stick with chalk on the end and they can do one street at eleven, then again at two o’clock.”
Tyers also suggested leaflets or stickers that could be dropped on offenders’ cars that said, “put yourself in my place, please don’t park in my space.” However she admitted that this might not affect hardened offenders.
Chief administrative officer Heather Avison said staffing time is an issue for the city, and that a social media campaign could be part of the answer, as well involving the RCMP.