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Bayview needs free weekend parking

The March 2014 edition of Leaside Life pitted me against fellow contributor Geoff Kettel in a heated discussion about whether the “new” Laird Dr. was hurting businesses on Bayview.

Kettel argued that the big box centres have a major advantage over the stores on Bayview – hundreds of free parking spaces allowing shoppers to come and go as they please without spending a cent for the privilege.

Meanwhile, to park on the street between Davisville Ave. and Parkhurst Blvd., costs $2.25 per hour to do the exact same thing: shop. Kettel finished his half of our debate with these words:

“Most importantly, let’s eliminate the unfairness of free parking at big box stores. There should be a parking tax for all cars parking regardless of public or private space.”

Level the playing field, Kettel contended.

I’ve always thought that because the Green P lots at both 1503 Bayview and 1670 Bayview are often used at less than capacity that Bayview doesn’t have a parking problem.

But then somebody mentioned the idea of a “parking holiday” on Bayview on weekends and holidays and it suddenly dawned on me that I’d been looking at this situation from the wrong perspective.

I assumed the two lots were empty because people were either too lazy to walk from the north and south ends of the strip where they are located or too cheap to pay.

That might be the case for some but in reality, as Kettel argued in 2014, the convenience and ease of parking at Leaside Village, the Smart Centre at Wicksteed or the RioCan shops at Eglinton Ave. makes the choice a non-starter.

So, is it possible to level the playing field by taxing mall owners for parking? You bet it is.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the City of Toronto will do anything to help on this front, but it would be one area where the Bayview Leaside BIA should invest some serious time and money.

The other is to explore with the city and the other 70-plus BIAs the idea of a parking holiday.

Over Christmas the BIA had free valet parking on Saturdays and while one year’s experience good or bad is not enough to know if this strategy should become a permanent fixture of holiday shopping on Bayview, I do know there are plenty of examples in cities across Canada where parking holidays exist.

In Ottawa, free weekend parking is permitted at city lots as well as at on-street parking meters within the downtown core. The City of Regina is a second example. On Saturdays and Sundays it offers two hours of free parking at on-street meters in the city. The list goes on.

Parking holidays work.

For now, let me just say that Geoff Kettel was on to something when he suggested levelling the playing field.

Bravo, Geoff.