Parking (and surviving) in downtown Halifax
Halifax’s passion for parking runs deeper than we thought possible. Halifax Magazine discovered that two years ago with an article arguing that downtown Halifax doesn’t have a parking problem.
“The attitude in HRM is that there is no parking downtown, ever,” said Councillor Waye Mason. “Is there really no parking? Or is there just no parking right in front of the restaurant you want to eat lunch at?”
A lot of people objected, sharing tales of their unfulfilled quests for spaces, unjust tickets, and parking woes aplenty.We still maintain that Halifax has ample parking but clearly, parking downtown is often an ordeal.
We think it can be easier, though. Here’s what you need to know.
RACE AGAINST TIME
If you’re parked at a meter, pay attention to the time limit, because depending on where you park, the maximum could range anywhere from 30 minutes to five hours. Get a ticket, and you’ll pay a minimum fine of $20.
YELLOW: Three to five hours
GREEN: Two hours
SILVER: 90 minutes
RED: 30 minutes
If you’re using unmetered street parking, there’s more flexibility. For example, if you’re parked on the street and there’s a 30-minute time limit, you can always drive around the block and come back. As long as your wheels have changed position, you’re good but there’s still a risk that someone else will take your spot by the time you’ve completed your circuit.
“We chalk tires,” says Brendan Elliott, the city’s senior communications advisor. “But there’s also a stem that comes out of the tires that we check to see if it’s out of position. We only ticket if the chalk has not moved, or the stem has not moved.”
No matter where you park, there’s a certain amount of risk, because some decisions are left up to the discretion of the parking enforcement officer. If you park in a spot with a two-hour time limit and you stay there for eight hours, the parking enforcement officer can legally give you four separate tickets.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Since the city outsources parking enforcement, you can still get a ticket after 4:30 p.m. (There’s an enduring local belief that you’re immune from tickets after 4:30 p.m., because city workers have clocked out.)
- If you’re unloading a vehicle, you can park in a “No Parking” area for up to 30 minutes. But be careful, because the rules say you have to be actively unloading, which leaves plenty of room for interpretation.
“I CAN’T REACH THE PARKING METER!”
If you decide against putting money in your meter because it’s buried in a snow bank, it’s up to the Parking Enforcement Officer to decide whether or not it’s reasonable to expect you to pay. But more than anything, if your car is obstructing traffic, snow clearing, or a bike lane, you’ve got a pretty good chance of getting a ticket.
“WHO GAVE ME THIS TICKET?”
Although both Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP can give tickets, a company called Independent Security Services (ISS) currently hands out the majority of them.
“Independent Security Services were awarded the contract in April of 2014,” says Elliott. “It’s for five years, but on an annual review, so that either side can pull out of the agreement if they aren’t satisfied with how things are going.”
Even though the work is outsourced, the city still has a hand in the implementation—they did the initial training for employees present at contract time, and ISS is expected to pass on those standards to any new employees.
There’s also a chance you could receive a municipal ticket in a private lot. Some (not all) private owners would prefer to have someone else handle ticketing, so they supply an employee and have them trained by the city. After receiving their training, those employees can issue municipal tickets, but only in their assigned lots.
BOOTS AND TOWS
Towing is a last resort for the city. They can tow at any time, but generally speaking, their first consideration when making the decision is whether or not you’re creating a safety hazard (if you’re obstructing traffic or emergency vehicles, for example).
The city uses three different towing companies, A-1 Towing, Ruggles Towing, and Academy Towing Inc. Their fees (which you’ll pay) range from $110 to about $500 (more if they store your car for more than a day).
According to Elliott, the city never boots. “You would only find booting on private property in private parking lots,” says Elliott. “But the owner of that lot has the ability to charge whatever they want to have the boot taken off because it’s private property. We wouldn’t have any role in that.”
PARK IN PEACE
If you don’t feel like driving circles around downtown, you can always pay to park in one of these private lots.
- B-Lot at the corner of Sackville Street and Bell Road
- MetroPark at Hollis Street
- Scotia Square Parkade on Albemarle Street
- Casino Nova Scotia Parkade on Upper Water Street
- Prince George Hotel on Market Street
- Halifax Waterfront on Lower Water Street
- Halifax Central Library (underground parking) on Queen Street
- Alderney Landing on Ochterloney Street
- Alderney Gate on Alderney Drive
- City Centre Atlantic on Dresden Row
- Park Lane on Annandale Street
Overnight-parking ban season runs from December 15 to March 31 in Halifax. If the city declares a ban, you’re at its mercy if you’re parked on the street between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m.
You get plenty of advance warning, though. At least 12 hours before a ban begins, HRM announces it via local media and Twitter. You can also sign up for text or email notification, and by phone 311 to see if a ban is in effect.
“We try to provide as many ways for people to find out as we can,” says Elliott. “It’s pretty clear when a ban is in place.”
But if you decide to risk it, be prepared to pay a $50 ticket. And if you’re towed, you’ll also have to come up with the money to retrieve your car from the impound lot.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The city can still call an emergency winter parking ban between March 31 and April 15.
- HRM can (but rarely does) ban parking on all city streets to ease snow-removal efforts.
- Even if there’s no ban in effect, you can still be ticketed $50 if your car is impeding workers clearing snow.
“I GOT A TICKET!”
You can pay by calling 311, using the online Parking Ticket Payment eService, by mail, or at a HRM Citizen Contact Centre.
TAKE THE BUS
Still hate parking downtown? Why not park for free at the Halifax Shopping Centre on Mumford Road and take a Halifax Transit bus downtown. An adult fare is $2.50 (with free transfers). The #1 bus runs every 10 minutes during peak hours, and goes straight down Spring Garden Road and Barrington Street to the heart of the downtown.
“I’M NOT PAYING THAT!”
You can also dispute your ticket, but only if your ticket falls under one of the following categories.
- Parking in a “No Parking” zone
- Parking for longer than allowed
- Parking on private property
- Parking in an accessible parking zone without a permit
- Parking in a fire lane
- Parking during the winter ban
- Committing a meter violation
“If you’re not paying because you feel you didn’t do anything wrong, you can fight it in court,” says Elliott. “But if you simply don’t pay because you don’t want to, and you don’t contest it, you might not be able to renew your license until all your tickets are paid.”
If you’re contesting your ticket, file your dispute within 14 days of the issue date. You can do this by filling out a Ticket Review Form and emailing it to email@example.com. After seven to 14 days, HRM should let you know the results of the review.
If you don’t pay at all, you’ll eventually be summoned to court. And if you don’t show up the provincial court takes over—and that’s when the Registry of Motor Vehicles involved. And don’t forget—that ticket goes to the owner of the vehicle, not the driver.
TICKET QUOTAS: FACT OR FICTION?
The belief that parking enforcement officers have a quota to fill has been floating around for years, but according to Elliott, that’s an urban myth. The city doesn’t ask for a quota to be filled, and neither does ISS. In fact, Elliott says that ISS is paid based on the hours its parking enforcement officers put in, and that the number of tickets issued has nothing to do with it.
Despite all this, the question resurfaced again recently when the public found out that two ISS employees had been fired for issuing tickets to non-existent out-of-province plates. And there’s a good reason, after all, if there’s no quota, why would they make up the tickets? Although he’s not sure at this point, Elliott speculates that the employees were trying to make it look like they were working when they weren’t. Since it’s currently a challenge for the city to go after out-of-province plates, it’s likely that these two individuals assumed their fabricated tickets would never be discovered.
But it sounds like the city’s policy will soon change.
“We’re currently looking into the policy relating to out-of-province licence plates with an eye on expanding our follow-up enforcement to other jurisdictions outside of Nova Scotia,” says Elliott. “We first need to look at the legal ability to enforce out-of-province infractions, as well as the internal administrative framework and capacity required to follow through on this potential change in policy.”
Halifax Magazine invites reader comments and encourages respectful discussion; we reserve the right to remove spam and libellous or abusive comments.
This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.