Parking problems pleasingly parsed
WINNIPEG drivers like to think that finding a space to park our cars is our
civic, if not human, right.
American journalist Henry Grabar’s new book, Paved Paradise: How Parking
Explains the World, will disabuse us of the notion we are in any way
According to Grabar, the unrealistic expectation of convenient, immediately
available and free parking is held by every North American with a driver’s
licence. “It would be unimaginable to hold any other good or service to the
same standard,” writes Grabar, who covers urban policy issues for Slate.
“Once, I missed an entire summer afternoon at the beach because I refused
to pay for parking, and while I hunted, my passengers (wisely) left on the
island ferry without me.”
In his snappily written and well-researched tome, Grabar surveys
wrong-headed urban decisions made over many decades. These have turned
downtowns into traffic-clogged disasters and suburbs into grey expanses of
strip malls surrounded by seas of empty asphalt and concrete.
The book’s main virtues are Grabar’s grasp of the subject matter and his
impressive writing ability. Policy-wonk books are seldom so fluent and
A big downside, at least for Canadian readers, is Grabar’s American focus.
In his hundreds of anecdotes, profiles and examples, he seldom strays from
the contiguous 48 states.
He gives us a single mention, in a paragraph about per-capita car
ownership. Canada, he reports, has about 655 cars per 1,000 population,
compared to 600 per 1,000 in Western Europe and 800 in the U.S. C’est tout
for Canuck content. Well, except for his title, grabbed from the lyric of
Joni Mitchell’s song Big Yellow Taxi: “They paved paradise and put up a
Grabar acknowledges his research leans heavily on the work of progressive
urban thinkers who have, uh, paved the way for him. Chief among them is
California-based economist Donald Shoup, best-known for his 2005 book, The
High Cost of Free Parking.
The big evil for Shoup is “parking minimums,” municipal bylaws that command
property developers to include unrealistically high numbers of parking
spots in their plans for both commercial and residential buildings.
These rules put construction costs out of reach and result in non-drivers
in, for instance, apartment blocks, absorbing in their rent the cost of
other tenants’ parking spots.
Another common mistake is improper pricing of downtown street parking. If
it’s too low, downtown workers will snap up the spots by 9 a.m., leaving
only high-priced lots for everyone else.
Most parking-policy errors made in the U.S. have been imported to Canada,
but it would be useful to know if and how our regulatory framework differs.
*Shoup, by the way, presented his ideas in Winnipeg in 2019 in a workshop
sponsored by the Downtown BIZ and the Green Action Centre.*
The book contains much else of interest. Included is a portrait of the
inventor of the shopping mall, the Holocaust refugee Victor Gruen, an
amusing chapter detailing how parking lots attract fraudsters, and another
filled with eye-opening stats about the over-availability of parking spots
in U.S. cities. “By square footage,” Grabar writes, “there is more housing
for each car in the United States than there is for each person.”
Kudos in particular to the publisher for illustrating the text with nifty
line drawings, by Alfred Twu, instead of predictable photos.
*Morley Walker is a retired Free Press writer and editor.*
City plans to demolish filthy access to concourse under Portage and Main
Stairway (not) to heaven
A STAIRWELL used by the public to enter the concourse under Portage and
Main has become a regular place for people to relieve themselves and pester
people for money.
A sanitation worker who was cleaning the stairwell, at the northeast corner
of the intersection, Tuesday morning said he has to remove human excrement
and litter with a broom and soap.
“They poop here, they pee here, they smoke inside this,” he said while
cleaning the site at the northeast corner of the intersection.
He said he expected there would be more litter when he returned later in
the day to clean up again.
An employee at the nearby Fairmont Hotel said if he can, he’ll avoid using
the concourse after dark.
“If you’re going after, I would say 9 p.m. or 10 p,m., then that’s not
safe,” he said.
While he said he’s witnessed bad behaviour in the stairwell, most people
just ask for money and don’t pose a threat.
“Not all of them will be really bad or aggressive,” he said. “They’re just
looking for spare money or change, that’s it.”
The City of Winnipeg is looking at demolishing the stairwell and working
with staff of the nearby Richardson Building to open its concourse to the
public during hours it would normally be closed.
On Tuesday, the property committee will discuss a recommendation that $1.65
million be paid to Richardson Centre Ltd. for the cost of removing the
stairwell. It would conduct the work while constructing the adjacent
Richardson Plaza. An agreement would be signed to allow the public to
access the concourse via the Richardson Building.
It’s not a new idea. In 2017, the idea was raised as part of a discussion
to improve accessibility and safety. About $1.5 million was allotted for
work on the concourse below 201 Portage Avenue, including removing the
bunker in question.
The report notes the sidewalk may have to be re-excavated when the roof
membrane over the concourse is replaced in future.
Committee chairperson Coun. Sherri Rollins said while she plans to support
the idea, she is concerned about pedestrians having to rely on a private
property to enter the public space.
“In this, too, are real public interest questions with respect to access
agreements,” she said. “Most Winnipeggers want to not have to rely on a
private-sector access agreement to be able to access their city in a
The concourse is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Until a way to cross Portage and Main at the ground level exists, Rollins
said, the public stairwell is in dire need of refurbishing and called this
“the most cost-efficient way of getting that job done.”
“It stinks, it doesn’t feel safe. This isn’t a way to design a city with
bunkers,” she said. “It’s really past its prime.”
Mayor Scott Gillingham said he’s undecided and would wait to hear Tuesday’s
discussion, but he called ensuring public access on par with what the city
could provide “paramount” to his decision.
“Whether it’s through an access agreement with the property owner on that
corner, or whether it’s through upgrading and maintaining that stairwell,
we need to ensure that access is provided to the public,” he said.
*Civic report recommends road-renewal tax hikes for years*
WINNIPEGGERS could be paying property tax hikes to fund road renewal well
into the next decade.
A funding strategy for road and bridge infrastructure suggests council
consider extending the practice long term, beginning with the 2024-2027
multi-year budget process.
A public works report proposes to continue levying at least part of those
tax revenues through 2037.
“I’m supportive of it… it clearly identifies where we’re going as a council
to maintain our existing roadways. That, in turn, is good for city staff,
it’s good for contractors,” said Coun. Janice Lukes, chairwoman of the
public works committee.
The report also calls on city council to make more projects eligible for
the dedicated tax dollars, by adding in tree-replacement and preservation
projects in 2024 and expanding to include road-safety and
pedestrian/cycling programs in 2026.
The City of Winnipeg began raising property taxes with the money dedicated
to road renewal in 2013. For 2023, property taxes rose 3.5 per cent, with
revenue from two percentage points of the increase devoted to roads and
0.33 percentage points earmarked for the Southwest Rapid Transitway.
The new proposal would continue to ensure road renewal is a priority, said
The proposed plan aims to improve the “level of service for roadway
condition.” That would require devoting revenue from two percentage points
of annual tax hikes to roads again from 2024 through 2028, then gradually
decreasing the amount. Only 0.5 percentage points of property tax hikes
would be earmarked for roads between 2034 and 2037. “Assuming service level
targets are met by 2037, no additional dedicated property tax increases for
street renewal reserve purposes are projected for 2038 and the foreseeable
future thereafter,” writes Brad Neirinck, the public works department’s
manager of engineering, in the report.
The roads target would be achieved once 85 per cent of Winnipeg’s regional
streets are in good or very good condition, as well as 75 per cent of
residential roads, 75 per cent of industrial streets and 55 per cent of
Council could consider the report as soon as next month.
joyanne.pursaga(a)freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga
Zero-carbon visitor centre flagship of FortWhyte redevelopment plan
Buffalo Crossing to come alive
LIZ Wilson sits down having freshly exchanged her high-visibility vest and
steel toed boots for a tan blazer and stylish flats.
The wooden bench she settles on was ironically dedicated to
then-50-year-old Doug Harvey, a major donor of the Buffalo Crossing
development at the FortWhyte Alive sanctuary in southwest Winnipeg.
“I was just over at our new building site,” says the president and CEO of
The footprint of the planned $25 million, two-storey, 18,000
square-foot-facility on McGillivray Boulevard already holds a visible
impression on the south end of the 660-acre urban green space and wetlands,
with the concrete foundation poured and asphalt spread where a large
parking lot will be.
Next is the mass delivery of timber — expected to arrive in early July — to
assemble Buffalo Crossing, a visitor centre and flagship initiative in a
six-project, $35 million capital campaign that will open a new entrance to
FortWhyte Alive, offering some much-needed relief for the natural urban
oasis and increasing its accessibility to the rest of Winnipeg.
“All of a sudden, this building is going to be erected. It’s going to be
almost like Lego, so that’s super exciting,” Wilson says.
Buffalo Crossing, which broke ground in November, is expected to open in
July of 2024.
FortWhyte Alive has one access point on McCreary Road, a road that winds to
the only entrance building on the property. Days with heavy flows of
traffic, owing to the number of schools that use FortWhyte Alive as a
destination for field trips, create a bottleneck in the existing parking
lot, Wilson says.
“It’ll take some of the pressure off our main entrance, we’ll be able to
separate our youth programs from our public and tourism programs,” she says.
“It allows us the opportunity to open up more of our property, expand our
program offerings and increase the number of youth and school groups that
can come here with our expanded capacity.”
As with any project of this magnitude, Buffalo Crossing has come with its
challenges, Wilson explains, Construction is slightly behind schedule,
largely owing to supply-chain issues and the added task of building the
facility to passive house and zero- carbon standards. Buffalo Crossing is
the first commercial building to hold these energy-efficiency designations
“I hope that this is going to be a teaching tool for everyday Manitobans to
be able to come in and see that sustainable, climate-resilient architecture
is possible in our climate,” Wilson says.
Last week, the city cleared one of the largest remaining hurdles in the
plan to build a new access point on one of its busiest thoroughfares: how
those travelling by foot will safely cross McGillivray to reach FortWhyte
An update by Coun. Janice Lukes (Waverley West ) in June of 2021 detailed
two possible options for pedestrians. The first included traffic lights and
a crosswalk to be installed at the Brady Road and McGillivray intersection. The
second was a controlled crosswalk that led from a new pathway at Front
Street and McGillivray.
Given the speed limit on that stretch of the road is 80 km/h and is often
occupied by large vehicles such as construction trucks, semis and farm
equipment, the city decided on a plan that closely resembles the first
Four-way lights that also act as a controlled pedestrian crossing at Brady
and McGillivray will be installed by May 2024.
“What it also triggers are upgrades to the current pathway,” says Lukes.
“The pathway south of McGillivray is horrible, it’s a little sidewalk. As
fate would have it, development is occurring along McGillivray. They’re
going to upgrade the pathway, the other development that comes along is
going to upgrade the pathway and the city will be upgrading the pathway.
“What this will do is the connectivity of separated sidewalks and bike
paths is going to be incredible because the network that will get into
FortWhyte Alive or out of FortWhyte Alive, into the south — from an active
transportation perspective — is brilliant. And from transit, people will be
able to get on the rapid transit corridor, take a feeder bus and zip into
Indeed, possibly the grandest piece to the multimillion-dollar capital
campaign will be a bus loop that allows public transit to reach a part of
the city it’s never touched.
“That is huge. That’s a game changer for us because accessibility has been
a barrier for FortWhyte,” Wilson says.
“Unless you live close and you can use active transportation, walk or bike
or you have access to a vehicle, we really haven’t been able to attract
FortWhyte Alive will also add a bridge for pedestrians that connects
Buffalo Crossing to the other side of Muir Lake, which will be installed in
Funding for the Short North C-pass program comes from a designation from
the City of Columbus of local parking revenue generated within the Short
North Parking Benefit District. These local parking revenues are reinvested
into mobility programs in the Short North area after the city’s costs are
met, Pandora said.