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Kingston City Council to reconsider winter overnight parking ban

A pilot program that would see changes to the winter overnight parking ban on the streets of Kingston will be one topic of discussion for Kingston City Council at their regular meeting this coming Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022.  A report from the City of Kingston’s Brad Joyce, Commissioner of Transportation and Public Works, and Karen Santucci, Director of Public Works and Solid Waste, recommends the pilot be used to examine the benefits of a ‘weather-based’ approach to overnight parking, as opposed to a full ban.

Vehicles parked along Princess Street in downtown Kingston alongside the mounds of snow the city received on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. Parking on streets overnight and snow removal are on the agenda for the Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022 Kingston City Council meeting. Photo by Daniel Tastard-Homer.

Currently, the City of Kingston Winter Parking Regulations annually prohibits parking on any city street from December 1 to March 31, between the hours of 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. (In effect from 12 a.m. to 7 a.m. on the streets that surround Kingston General Hospital). 

However, the report states, climate change has affected winter weather and, while winters in the Kingston area seem to be beginning later and ending earlier, extreme weather events are on the rise. The current parking regulations that are in effect for the full winter season are seen to be too restrictive when there is no significant snowfall for days or weeks at a time.

Mayor Bryan Paterson took to YouTube to explain the project and the reasoning behind the proposed changes in a video uploaded to his Mayor Paterson page on the morning of Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.

“Historically, the City has banned overnight street parking during the winter months to keep the streets clear for snowplows,” he explained, saying, “This can be inconvenient and often means additional cost for those without a driveway or an alternative parking location.”

The heart of the issue, he said, is “We need to get the streets clear when there’s snow or freezing rain, but we’re also seeing extended periods of time without much winter weather in Kingston, particularly in December and in March.”

The pilot program would instead ban overnight parking in January and February only.

In the “shoulder months,” December and March, overnight parking would be allowed except during weather conditions that require plowing and sanding. In the case of an extreme weather event (freezing rain or more than 5 cm of snow), the City would implement a temporary ban from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following day.

Kingston Mayor Bryan Paterson discusses the proposed changes to the City’s overnight winter parking ban on his YouTube channel on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.

A temporary ban would be announced by 3 p.m. to allow residents time to remove their vehicles from the street. “For this system to work,” said the mayor, “the City will issue broad communications when vehicles need to be moved off the streets, using news releases, social media, electronic signboards.”

The report that will go before Council next week stems from a meeting on March 24, 2020, at which Council approved research by City Staff dealing with on-street parking restrictions during the winter control season.

At that time, according to the report, many residents had expressed their frustration with the winter parking ban. Council agreed the policy did not necessarily fit the entire city well and that there can be many nights when there is no fresh snow to plow, nor old snow to remove.

Furthermore, the City of Ottawa, as well as the City of Cornwall, were given as examples of nearby cities with similar climates that have active communications policies around when on-street parking during the winter is prohibited, which usually only occurs when in the instance of a forecasted weather event (of 7 cm or more total snowfall for Ottawa and of 5 cm or more for Cornwall, or other situational factors that arise) or the period shortly thereafter to allow for cleanup.

Therefore, the Public Works Department was asked to report back to Council by the end of 2020 with an information report to identify the implications and steps, including a notification strategy, required to implement a weather-based parking ban. The timing for staff to report back to Council was subsequently deferred to the first quarter of 2022 due to workload pressures created by COVID-19.

Public Works staff reviewed winter parking practices in 19 other municipalities and found that each of them typically had a full parking ban for the winter season, a weather-based parking ban or a combination of weather-based and a full ban.

And, though only an information report was requested, the report provides a recommendation to Council to implement a pilot winter parking program to see what works best for Kingston.

If Council approves the pilot, it would take effect from this March and carry through next winter as well. 

“Now, for this weather-based system to work on a more permanent basis,” said the Mayor in his video address to Kingston residents, “we all need to work together, stay informed, and move our vehicles off the street when needed. But I think it’s an approach that makes a lot of sense and I know will make life easier for many residents.”

A full copy of the report to Kingston City Council can be read on the City’s website.

Ted Hsu for MPP
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