Waterfront District BIA to Present Parking Deputation to City Council

Business Owners in the Waterfront are concerned over the impact of new parking rules
Business Owners in the Waterfront are concerned over the impact of new parking rulesJune 2024

THUNDER BAY – NEWS – Over the past two summers, construction on Court Street and now on Red River Road and Cumberland Street to do needed infrastructure. That construction does have an impact on retail traffic.

Now the City of Thunder Bay has changed parking rules in the downtown cores, and the Water Front BIA is on the issue.

Overview of New Parking Regulations

Effective immediately, the city has implemented several changes to parking rules:

  • Two-Hour Parking Limit Removed: The previous restriction of two-hour parking has been lifted.
  • Paid Parking Extended: Paid parking is now required on Saturdays, evenings, and mornings.
  • Meter & Marina Rates: Active from Monday to Saturday, 7 am to 9 pm. Parking remains free on Sundays.
  • Minimum Meter Fee: A minimum fee of $2.00 is required at all metered spaces.
  • Grace Period Removal: The 15-minute grace period at the end of the paid parking time has been discontinued.
  • Waterfront Parkade Rates: A flat rate of $5.00 per stay, up to 24 hours.

A reality that City Administration does not seem to get is that they are potentially adding a really solid hammer punch to the local businesses. The downtown Waterfront District has added several new businesses in recent months, perhaps in anticipation of the completion of the construction.

On Friday night, in the Waterfront District, there was at 8:00 PM only one vehicle which had a paid meter. Imagine after decades of parking being free in evenings, how a patron of a local business would feel getting a parking ticket.

There isn’t even any indications by way of signage of the new rules at least as of June 7, 2024.

No signs marking the changes to parking rules
No signs marking the changes to parking rules

Business owners, and property owners in the Waterfront District and in the Fort William BIA are not happy. One business owner says that “They are out of their minds”.

The parking hike is for many the tip of the iceberg that may start a larger pushback as business licencing fees have continued to climb, and the pressure on local business increases. Post pandemic, small business, and let us be focused, downtown in both the Fort William BIA and the Waterfront District, as well as the Westfort district is not row upon row of national franchises, it is small businesses. Many business owners in Thunder Bay and nationally are still in recovery mode.

CFIB Business Survey
CFIB Business Survey

This is likely going to give incoming City Manager John Collin his first challenge and first opportunity to demonstrate a new attitude toward business in Thunder Bay. Several business owners have expressed that they join in what Collin said when introduced as incoming city managers that he “Can’t wait for June 17th”.

Time will tell.

The Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Waterfront BIA are working toward making positive change. The Waterfront District BIA will be making a deputation to the city council to address several parking concerns raised by members.

The key points they will be discussing include:

  • Minimum $2 Charge: This charge is unfair to small businesses that rely on quick purchases and pickups. We are requesting a 15-30 minute parking option so customers can quickly grab a coffee, pastry, or pick up an order. We want parking changes to support small businesses that contribute to our local economy, rather than directing customers to large corporate drive-throughs or malls.
  • 7 am-9 am Ticketing: This negatively impacts those leaving their vehicles overnight after a night out and residents living in the area. We are seeking the removal of this ticketing or a solution that considers those who have possibly had too much fun the night before as well as residents of the area.
  • Equitable and Safe Parking for Residents: Residents with housing in the BIA need equitable and safe parking options. The Parkade is over 73% occupied and not accessible to all residents living in the core. Residents living in the core (an initiative encouraged by the council) are being ticketed if their cars are on the street before work hours (8 am or 9 am) and after 5 pm. We are seeking a solution for those with a residential address within the BIA for a pass indicating their residential status.
  • Impact of Construction: With ongoing construction, it’s already challenging to attract people to the area. Adding parking changes that deter use only exacerbates the issue and discourages support for small local businesses.
  • Parkade Improvements: The parkade remains intimidating and not fully functional. Many in the area were expecting improvements before the parking changes took effect. We are seeking an update on the promised improvements – phasing out the aged infrastructure.
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