Council gives first reading to traffic bylaw amendment

City Council took a look this week at possible changes to the traffic bylaw and the general penalties bylaw regarding increases in fines for parking violations.

Joyce Boon, co-manager of Inspections and Licensing, said in the last few years parking violations have decreased but that the parkade is full on a regular basis.

Two options for fine increases were considered but Boon pointed out that they recommended one option over the other.

“We recommend option two which would increase the penalty by $25 and increase the early payment reduction to $25. It would be an increase of $10 in revenue,” said Boon.

A parking ticket, then, would be $55 and the early payment reduction price would be $20.

Boon pointed out that of comparable municipalities, Red Deer has one of the lowest fine rates with only Lethbridge ticketing in smaller denominations.

Councillor Chris Stephan was not only against the idea of raising the fines, but of having metered parking downtown at all. “A lot of the things that we’re doing in terms of encouraging people to come downtown seem counterintuitive in terms of what we’re doing with parking.”

Boon stated that the meter rates would not be increasing and that parking rates have not gone up in about three years.

“We actually had free parking downtown and what we found from the businesses was that their employees were taking up prime parking so there was nowhere for the public to park when they came downtown to shop or go to the doctor,” said Boon.

At the beginning of this year the Government of Alberta had said they were going to require a $15 surcharge on all tickets. This got cancelled before it could be implemented. “We actually had anticipated changing penalties prior to the government announcing that $15,” said Boon.

Some other fines will also be increased if council approves this bylaw amendment. These include stopping where prohibited, parking in construction zones, bus stops and fire lanes, parking unattached holiday trailers on highways and other parking related offenses.

“If memory serves me right it was 2006 when we last came to council and increased the fines,” said Boon, explaining that this is why the rates needed to be analyzed.

Councillor Tara Veer said she prefers the recommended rate increase.

“Even though the parking fine is high, there is a strong incentive for early payment which works in the public’s favour,” said Veer.

City Manager Craig Curtis said the rationale behind raising the parking fines is to pay for the parkade downtown without raising taxes. “Council’s choice is to either raise the fine rates or to actually subsidize the parkade with a tax,” said Curtis.

Councillor Dianne Wyntjes said the early payment rates are a great incentive for the public. “It’s never popular to raise fees. But I would rather we raise fees here than in a recreation perspective.”

Councillor Lynne Mulder said she would support the first reading because the increases are still keeping in line with other municipalities. “I’ve never been anywhere that you didn’t have to pay to park. The fines are an optional fee. If you park and you pay and come back then there’s no extra charge to it. The emphasis is on those who break the law so to speak.”

Buchanan and Stephan voted against the motion. Councillor Paul Harris was absent.