Finding somewhere to park downtown will forever draw the ire of St. John’s residents. There will never be enough spots where people want them, parking fees will always seem too high, and new garages will always obstruct somebody’s million-dollar view.
There’s no easy answer to solving this city’s parking crunch, but there has to be a better solution than somehow squeezing more car spaces downtown. Why not try thinking outside the box?
Elsewhere in Canada, public transit shuttles in and out of downtown cores have been used for years as a way for commuters to save on parking fees and long walks, and for cities to crack down on streets cluttered with vehicles. In places such as Halifax, Ottawa, and Vancouver, drivers leave their cars at transit pick-up locations – where parking is usually free of charge – and ride directly into city centres on buses, trains, and tramways.
Metrobus already operates a Park n’ Ride service from Bowring Park and Confederation Building for hockey games at Mile One Centre – high traffic times when downtown parking is scarce and people don’t want to walk half a mile to their cars. It works for hockey fans, so why couldn’t it work for start- and end-of-day commuters or weekend shoppers, too?
Admittedly, public transit in St. John’s has a terrible rep for unreliability and disuse. There’s a perception the Metrobus is a last resort for transport, so that while other Canadian cities embrace their buses, trams and trains, ours is a town seemingly bent on driving or bust.
But aside from St. John’s transit’s public perception issues, bus shuttles have a lot of merit for solving our city’s parking problems. And why not offer downtown shuttles – both short- and long-haul – when thousands of commuters drive to and from work in St. John’s in single-passenger vehicles every day?
Metro St. John’s communities have never seriously pursued public transit shuttles for residents who work in St. John’s and Mount Pearl but who live outside those cities’ boundaries. People from towns like nearby CBS and Paradise have up to now been simply out of luck when it comes to making use of transit.
Their residents, meanwhile, who commute the longest and feel the pinch most at the pump, could stand the most to benefit from bus shuttle service in and out of the city.
University and college students from Metro who pay hundreds of dollars a year for campus parking would jump at a park and ride shuttle in to school. People and businesses that pay hefty daily parking fees at downtown garages could stand a lot to benefit, too. That’s not to mention anyone who fears the environmental impact of thousands of single-passenger vehicles zooming in and out of the city every day, twice a day.
Park and ride for hockey fans is great. But we can do a lot better.