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Free parking Saturdays downtown; review of program

Parking garage almost always has available spaces.
Parking garage almost always has available spaces.

Free parking continues every Saturday in 2014 in downtown Burlington. On-street parking has also been extended from two hours maximum, to three hours. There is no maximum time in the lots. So if you visit on a Saturday for more than three hours, please use a lot.

Also, if you work downtown and park all day, please park in your regular spot, or the upper levels of the parking garage, and leave on-street parking, the lots closest to Brant Street, and the lower levels of the parking garage for visitors.

The parking garage has a digital sign at the entrance which records the number of spaces available. During December there were always some spaces available.

We (the city and Burlington Downtown Business Association) are reviewing our program of free parking for December, and want your input into what worked and what we could do better next time.

Lots were filled by 8 or 9 am, before stores opened, by employees of various offices downtown. We’re looking at ways to encourage employees to park in their regular lots and leave space for visitors; your ideas are welcome.

Please provide feedback by noon, Mon Jan. 27, preferably by email to (marianne.meedward@burlington.ca)

To find parking downtown view this map. For information on parking rates & fees in municipal lots click here.

My Take: I support the free parking program as a way to bring more people to the downtown, however we’ve got to make sure the program is achieving this goal, so a review is in order.

Your Take: Do you support free parking for the month of December and Saturdays in 2014? Leave a comment below or email me privately at (marianne.meedward@burlington.ca)

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.


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  1. Free Parking is a lovely idea in principle. However we all know there is no such thing as “free”. The principle of supply and demand requires that we price parking as we would price any other good or service. If you lower the price, you increase the demand beyond the city’s ability to provide spaces for everyone who wishes to use them. People have to circle around looking for open spots, which is just as negative an experience as putting money in a meter.

    It would be reasonable to expect that people who work downtown would take more advantage of the available parking when they do not have to pay for it. No need to take the bus or carpool.

    Ideally, parking would be priced such that people would always be able to find one or two spots conveniently located near their destination. San Francisco does this relatively well with their SF Park initiative. Note this doesn’t mean that parking needs to be more expensive…merely responsive to the demand. There may be a number of people wiling to pay for the convenience of parking close to their destination. Employees may be willing to walk further if there is a cost to them.
    Yes, the malls have “free” parking, but there is a tremendous opportunity cost…if the mall is busy, you have to circle around to get a spot, costing your valuable time. If the mall is not busy, the merchants have to pay for the unoccupied land, which means you pay higher prices. This is also one reason why you rarely see stores that are not owned by major national (or U.S based) chains in a mall.
    My suggestion is to monitor usage, both during the regular time and the “free” times to measure the impact, and use the information to guide pricing decisions.

    Donald Shoup explains this much better than I could in the link below…

    • Very true Chris. Driving and parking has a cost, and as long as parking is underpriced or free to the immediate user, driving will be “cheap” relatively speaking to other modes of transportation, and people will continue to drive. We can encourage people to use other forms of transportation, or carpool, if parking and driving is user-pay and priced at the cost of this infrastructure. Burlington is in transition from a car culture to, eventually, one with more active transportation. While we make that transition, we will continue to experiment with ways to bring people downtown. Free parking is one such experiment, and we will evaluate it to see if it achieves this goal.

What's your take?