By Jonathan Juha, Postmedia News
Thursday, March 8, 2018
A local advisory group on parking issues isn’t completely on board with a proposal that would allow people with accessible parking permits to use regular parking spots without having to feed the meter.
Instead, the parking task force, comprised of representatives from the Stratford Tourism Alliance, the Stratford Festival and businesses downtown, would like the city to focus its efforts on creating more accessible parking spaces.
“It is a gracious gesture but the issue should not be focused on reducing the cost of parking for those who need more convenient access, it should be about reserving more spaces to make that access possible in the first place,” said Rob Russell, a member of parking taskforce and head of the local Business Improvement Area (BIA).
Though converting more spots into accessible spaces will reduce an already limited number of available regular parking spots, Russell said at least this way it will be easier to know for sure what the impact might be.
“We think that taking some of our existing inventory and convert them into accessible spots just makes the most sense as far as being able to control how this affects parking overall,” he said.
“If we just allow for anyone with a permit to park anywhere and not feed the meter, I think the potential there to have an impact on (parking) is much higher.”
The city could be considering the accessible parking permits proposal in the next few weeks.
Peter Zein, a member of the city’s accessibility advisory committee, believes this is an effective way to deal with the limited number of available accessible parking spaces across the city, especially during the busy tourist season.
Zein, who broke his neck in an accident but drives his own van, said he’s been forced countless times to go back home without reaching his destination because he couldn’t find an empty accessible parking space.
At this point, it isn’t clear either what the financial impact of the proposal for the city would be, but that isn’t the determining factor either, said Tatiana Dafoe, the city’s deputy clerk.
“At the end of the day, the financial loss isn’t necessarily what we are concerned about,” she said. “It is more about ensuring everyone is able to access our system.”
Russell also admitted that some members of the parking task force were supportive of the measure, adding that either solution will represent a positive step.
“Any solution that is decided on that creates a better environment for people who have accessibility issues and are able to come to our downtown is going to be a good one,” he said.
“So even though I’m saying here that our committee leans towards adding new spots, if council decides to go with this other solution, I think we are still moving in the right direction.”