Ottawa park's Pokémon Go parking woes lead to nearly $12,000 in tickets

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Making Wellington Street one-way to accommodate more parking a no-go for councillors

12 October 2017 00:19:59 Home Stories

It seems as though the downtown parking issues many expected would occur following the construction of Stratford’s Market Square aren’t nearly as problematic as people thought.

Vice Alle News Time12 October 2017 00:19:59


City of Ottawa owed $39 million in outstanding parking tickets

16 April 2017 18:50:42 Ottawa Citizen - News

The City of Ottawa is sitting on a $39-million gold mine in unpaid parking tickets. The problem: How to collect it?

Vice null Time16 April 2017 18:50:42

CITY HALL SNIPPETS: Downtown parking woes

11 April 2017 02:43:06 Home Stories

Council is creating a committee tailored to finding a remedy for downtown parking woes.

Vice Alle News Time11 April 2017 02:43:06

Pilieci: Is Gatineau Park really creating a $241 million economic impact?

06 April 2017 01:31:08 Ottawa Citizen - News

The National Capital Commission says Gatineau Park is responsible for $241.5 million in annual economic impact and 4,728 jobs in the region. The statistics were released as part of a new study that was revealed on Tuesday by the NCC. "Gatineau Park’s contribution to gross domestic product surpasses $241 million per year" and "activities by Gatineau Park visitors generated $184 million in annual expenditures: at restaurants, on sports and recreational equipment, and on shopping," reads the report entitled "Gatineau Park visitor and economic impact study final report." The report was compiled by consultants at Environics Analytics and Nordicity Group Ltd. The NCC spent $122,602 plus HST on the study. Researchers came to the totals after conducting surveys with around 7,000 people last year. Surveys were conducted on-site at the park, by telephone, as well as online. By comparison, the Ottawa Senators hockey club is believed to account for $100 million in economic impact in Ottawa, according to a 2014 study. The Rideau Centre is believed to account for around $700 million in spend annually and the City of Ottawa employs around 12,000 people. If the statistics are to be believed, and some other media organizations reported them as fact, then the economic impact of the park appears substantial. Gatineau Park: A 361-square-kilometre nature preserve that on its own creates thousands of jobs and adds millions and millions of dollars to the economy. But is that true? The numbers in the NCC-commissioned report are not necessarily false, but how they've been presented is questionable. The nearly quarter-billion number trotted out by the NCC is eye-catching and makes for a good story. And that's the issue. Dig a bit deeper and the numbers become a bit less dazzling. "It seems far too high," said Barry Nabatian, a director with market research firm Shore Tanner Associates. "Campers’ fees and day-pass admissions are clearly due to the park. Otherwise, the spending would most likely happen anyway. For example, they may have included the cost of buying lunch/picnic stuff to take to the park, but people have to eat anyway, and therefore such costs should not be considered as economic benefit." According to the study, "600,000 people visited Gatineau Park from September 2015 to August 2016" and "expenditures related to visiting Gatineau Park" during that time frame "amounted to approximately $184 million." To put that into perspective, if we trust the study's statistics, each of those visitors spent $306.67 visiting Gatineau Park, which seems like pretty expensive picnic-ing. To be fair, the study's authors said many of the visitors came to the park multiple times over the course of the year, making 2.6 million visits. For those visiting multiple times, that spend would have been spread out. Things get a little more muddy after dissecting the study's claim about the park's impact on gross domestic product (GDP). According to the study's authors, the GDP impact generated by the park was $241.5 million. However, the impact on the GDP of the national capital region was only $145 million. The remaining $96.5 million was created by the park for Quebec, other Ontario municipalities and other provinces across the country, according to the studies authors. Expenses like airfare, train tickets, hotel stays and the price of items, like, say, new cross-country skis, were all factored into calculating the GDP generated by the park. Basically, if a person comes to Ottawa to visit a family member and happens to go to the park, the cost of their travel, meals and additional expenses were all factored into the report's conclusions. What was missing from the report is the actual amount of spending done by visitors to the park during the study. In an interview with the study's authors, Nordicity and Environics, it was revealed that park visitors spent a total of $1.87 million on parking, day passes, ski passes and other direct fees associated with visiting Gatineau Park between September 2015 to August 2016. The study's authors also revealed that the annual operating expenses associated with the park, which includes salaries, upkeep and other spend, is around $7 million. There are a total of 23 full-time employees working at Gatineau Park in a variety of roles, according to the NCC. There are also various volunteers. So what about the 4,728 jobs number suggested by the report? Well, that person you bought skis from, no matter if you didn't buy the skis specifically to use in Gatineau Park, that's a job that could get included. The massive disparity in perceived spending versus actual spending and actual employee count versus a projected number is a problem that a majority of economic impact studies face. According to Brandon Schaufele, assistant professor of business, economics and public policy in the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, conducting an economic impact study is difficult, but it is especially difficult to estimate the economic impact of something like a public park. "In general, it's very demanding. It’s very challenging to estimate the economic impact of Gatineau Park," he said. "Are people coming to the national capital to go to Gatineau Park? Probably some. But not likely most. It’s likely people are coming to see the capital, Parliament Hill, the museums and are also going to Gatineau Park. If you go to Chelsea for lunch, is that because of Gatineau Park or because Chelsea has a nice lunch venue?" As far as the dollar value associated with the park's economic impact, Schaufele didn't comment on it directly, but did say it was low compared to most of the other economic impact studies he has read. The consultants who compiled the NCC study told the Citizen that the $241.5 million in economic impact created by the park represented a very "conservative" estimate. However, some wondered why the NCC would feel the need to associate a dollar value with what is arguably the most treasured public park in the national capital region. Paul Dewar, former NDP MP for Ottawa Centre and a long-time supporter of new protections for the park, expressed concern about the NCC's attempt to associate a dollar value with the public lands. "It's always been understood that this was of great value," he said. "How does this fit into the NCC's mandate? What are they going to be doing with this information?" The NCC said it decided to commission the study in order to help collect research to better the management of public lands in the nation's capital. "The findings will be instrumental to the upcoming renewal of the Gatineau Park Master Plan," said Jasmine Leduc, a spokeswoman for the NCC. "A greater understanding of the park’s visitors and their activities in the park, as well as the park’s connection to the local economy, is essential to the NCC’s efforts to conserve and protect the park’s ecological integrity." Leduc said the NCC does not plan to sell any land in Gatineau Park. While an attendance count and better traffic management policies, which may even include limiting visitors to the park at times, may be a worthwhile effort to "conserve and protect the park's ecological integrity," slapping a questionable dollar value to detail the park's economic importance to the region seems like a fruitless endeavour. Spending $122,602 of taxpayers' money to associate a dollar figure with the park's value seems like a waste. The park is exactly that, a park. It's a place that can used by all residents and visitors as a big backyard. It's somewhere for people to go where they don't need to spend money to reconnect with nature, mountain bike through rough terrain, swim, ski or walk with family. It's value is in being open space for people to use, not a revenue-generating machine that attracts tourist dollars.

Vice null Time06 April 2017 01:31:08

Amid parking woes, Westboro, Hintonburg main drag to continue offering free parking

07 March 2017 22:20:43 Ottawa Citizen - News

Paid parking on Westboro and Hintonburg's main drag may have solved some of the neighbourhoods' parking woes, but local businesses and community associations wouldn't go for it, says Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper. On-street parking along Somerset, Wellington West and Richmond often exceeds practical capacity, meaning more than 85 per cent of available spots are taken. The situation causes congestion and forces drivers to hunt for spaces on residential side streets. In particular, Richmond Road west of Tweedsmuir Avenue and Wellington Street west of Parkdale Avenue are among the highest demand locations for on-street parking in Ottawa. Leiper said he was open to the possibility of introducing paid parking along the corridor to encourage more turnover and noted data collected during a two-year parking study confirmed such a measure could be a possible solution. Paid on-street parking is already a reality on Bank Street, Preston Street and in the ByWard Market. But reaching the necessary consensus among the BIAs and community associations to make the change wasn't possible, so paid parking won't be recommended in Kitchissippi's new parking strategy , which is slated for consideration next month by the transportation committee. There is a "good body of literature" on how to use pricing to alleviate some of the pressure caused by parking demand, but Leiper said some were reticent to accept it. "Even though we have spent quite a while talking with residents and businesses about what that literature demonstrates, I think people are still being guided by their gut. People don't like to pay for parking and so the assumption becomes, 'If I don't want to pay for parking, then others won't either,'" he said. Some business owners feared the introduction of paid parking would "dissuade people from visiting their shops and they'll go to places where there is free parking available," he said. The Wellington West BIA opposed paid parking, while the Westboro BIA came out in favour of it, Leiper said. Paid parking on the commercial strip is one of the city's preconditions for getting a parking garage, which many in Westboro believe would further help alleviate parking problems. Three out of four affected community associations also opposed paid parking. Westboro has seen a huge increase in on-street parking demand. Utilization in the peak period, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., was 65 per cent in 1997; last year it was 92 per cent. Average utilization is also up to 82 per cent from 49 per cent in 1997. Parking is the No. 1 concern for people coming to the area by car. The majority of drivers surveyed say they found a space in Westboro in less than five minutes, but it took most people between five and 10 minutes to find a space in Wellington West. In 2015, nearly 10,000 tickets were handed out on Wellington West, plus an additional 5,800 tickets in Westboro. Instead of paid parking on Somerset, Wellington West and Richmond, the report will make a number of other recommendations, including: Westboro Implement a 90-minute maximum parking time limit from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. along Richmond Road, seven days a week Add new on-street parking spaces on Madison and Kirkwood avenues Install signs directing motorists to the Westboro Station parking garage off Byron Avenue Pursue paid parking along Danforth Avenue at a rate of $1.50 per hour (for a maximum of three hours) Wellington West On Wellington between Island Park and Parkdale, maintain the 90-minute time limit but extend it to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week On Wellington between Parkdale and Garland, reduce to a 90-minute time limit from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week On Somerset between Garland and the O-Train tracks, reduce to a 90-minute time limit from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week On streets with paid parking, reduce the hourly rate from $3 to $1.50 and increase time limits on Holland Avenue from one to two hours and on Spencer Street and Hamilton Avenue for two to three hours Remove paid parking on Holland on Saturdays Install signs to promote the city-owned lot at the Parkdale Market The report will also request additional enforcement of time limits and overtime parking along Richmond, Wellington West and Somerset, as well as at no parking zones located on Huron and Hinton avenues immediately north of Wellington Street West.

Vice null Time07 March 2017 22:20:43

Saturday night parking impoundment fee unfair, Kanata woman says

06 January 2017 19:00:36 Ottawa Citizen - News

We've all been tempted but a Kanata woman found out the expensive way that just because a private parking lot is empty on a Saturday night, doesn't mean it's free. Brenda Cardinal is steaming mad that it cost her nearly $300 to get her car back after it was towed from a Park Safe lot at the corner of Somerset and O'Connor streets on Dec. 17 when she and a friend went to a Christmas concert at Dominion Chalmer's United Church. It was a snowy night and Cardinal said she didn't see the 24/7 enforcement signs posted on the lot or the $10 flat fee posted on a sandwich board sign at the lot entrance. When the concert was over, Cardinal and her friend, who had parked beside her, found the lot full and their cars gone. It cost them each $293.80 to get their cars back from where they'd been impounded in a garage near Lansdowne Park. "Three hundred dollars just before Christmas? That was a real hardship for me," said Cardinal, who contacted the Citizen with her complaint. "(Park Safe) didn't want to hear any excuses over the phone.... They said what I did was compared to going into a Mac's Milk and stealing products from them. I said, 'I am a respectable woman in my early 60s and there's no way I wouldn't have paid had I known that I had to pay for parking." Park Safe owner Marcie Tilley and her husband, Marc Proulx, don't have much sympathy. For them, towing and ticketing is the biggest headache of the parking business. "Our business is very simple," Proulx said. "We park cars. We collect money. We make sure it gets to the bank. But you need to make sure that everyone follows the rules." Park Safe is deputized to issue City of Ottawa parking tickets on its lots, but when demand is high for parking, like on the night of the concert, tickets aren't a good solution. For one thing, Park Safe has to split the $55 it receives for each ticket 50-50 with the city. Secondly, a non-paying car takes a spot from someone else who's willing to pay. Cardinal and her friend were the first cars in the lot, but the place was soon full of concertgoers. "When we went there, the other 58 people paid for their parking. They were the only two who didn't pay for parking," he said. "I hate doing enforcement. It's the worst part of our business," Tilley said. "But we have to do it because if we don't no one would ever pay. But it consumes a huge amount of our time. It's the largest expense in our business." Park Safe charged $95 for the tow, $55 because it had to use a dolly on Cardinal's car, $55 for the impoundment and then issued a $55 ticket. Tax brought the charge to $293.80. "When people come to us complain and want to be reimbursed, we've already gone out there and made the tow and incurred all the costs," Tilley said. "If the person had just read the signs, they wouldn't be in this situation. If I got a parking ticket or my car got towed, I'd pay it and suck it up because I'm the one who made the mistake." Park Safe uses licence plate readers to track cars which eliminates the need for dashboard parking slips. It has its own tow trucks and employs five full time workers to do enforcement. Tilley estimates they park 100,000 cars a week, issue about 100 tickets and tow just a couple of cars on average. If people dispute a charge, they can take the company to small claims court, but Proulx says the company's never lost a case. Once, a man who was towed claimed there was no warning signs, then went to the lot and ripped all the signs off the wall. He didn't realize the lot had a surveillance camera. "When I called the guy and said we had him on camera, he said, 'Oh, I'm so sorry,' and he brought us all the signs back," Proulx said. "You wouldn't believe what people will do to avoid paying $10 to park." For her part, Cardinal has complained to the Better Business Bureau but said she's resigned to her loss. "I didn't expect that I would ever get any money back from Park Safe but I will be very happy if the story helps others."

Vice null Time06 January 2017 19:00:36

RVH parking woes

08 October 2016 00:01:35 Home Stories

It wasn’t just the price at the gate but the gate itself that caused parking complaints at RVH.

Vice Alle News Time08 October 2016 00:01:35

Pokémon backpack search turns up cocaine stash in Kingston

01 October 2016 18:37:55 Ottawa Citizen - News

The Pokémon Go catchline, 'Gotta catch 'em all,' took on new meaning in Kingston this week when police seized a large quantity of cocaine in a Pokémon backpack. Kingston police arrested two men, aged 23 and 27 years old, Thursday night parked near a John Street address following a lengthy investigation. A search of the car passenger's "Pokémon Pokéball" backpack, officers found two large circular pressed and vacuum-sealed bags containing suspected cocaine. During the arrest officer also found several smaller bags of suspected cocaine, two cellphones and an apparent debt-list, indicators of drug trafficking, police said in a release. The 23-year-old passenger and 27-year-old driver of the car were jointly charged with possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking. The 23-year-old was also charged with breach of an undertaking. It was one of two cocaine busts Thursday night. Kingston officers arrested four men at a Walmart parking lot and seized more than one kilogram of suspected cocaine in bricks. They also seized $600 in cash, several cellphones, a digital scale and smaller quantities of suspected cocaine and marijuana.

Vice null Time01 October 2016 18:37:55

Smoking crackdown next for controversial Pokemon Go hotspot

12 August 2016 21:14:47 Ottawa Citizen - News

Smokers at Ottawa's most controversial Pokemon Go hotspot better beware: police are now promising to crack down on those who light up at Dick Bell Park. Dick Bell Park in Nepean is the same spot where bylaw officers blanketed illegally parked cars with hundreds of tickets totalling almost $12,000 over the August long weekend. Now the authorities have turned their attention to smoking, which is banned on all city property, including parks. On Tuesday, police and bylaw officers descended on the popular spot for catching Pokemon and wrote seven tickets. The offence carries a $250 fine, plus a $55 victim surcharge. It was an effort to get smokers to butt out on the breakwater that runs along the Ottawa River off Carling Avenue near the Nepean Sailing Club and a response to what police said were complaints about people smoking cigarettes and marijuana, drinking and staying past the park's 11 p.m. closing. "You can't smoke in the park," Ottawa police Const. Marc Soucy said of the ticket blitz. And Pokemon Go players better get used to seeing police and bylaw officers, he said. "It's probably going to happen again. They are going to check on a regular basis," said Soucy. "Obey the rules." A smoker catches a Pokemon at Dick Bell Park. The one spot in the park has become the most famous Ottawa location for catching Pokemon, attracting hundreds of people every day. (David Kawai/Postmedia) Craig Sweetnam has been among those complaining about the cigarette smoke. Sweetnam said he's noticed others using e-cigarettes or smoking marijuana. Sweetnam said he's not only allergic to smoke, but doesn't like seeing people smoking near children who are among the throngs of anywhere from 200 to 300 players that crowd the small point of land near the lighthouse nearly every night. The 43-year-old said he's tried asking smokers to move away, but got dirty looks instead. "I'm not trying to be a killjoy, I'm trying to protect my own health and the health of the people around me," he said. "This is like Canada Day. We're packed in there like sardines," he said. "Smokers are inconveniencing and detrimentally affecting the health of non-smokers around them. That's why we have rules against smoking in public parks like this." But Jordan St. Jean, a smoker and Pokemon Go player, said he believes there must be a better solution than handing out expensive tickets. It should start with courtesy by the smokers, he said. "If they don't like it, just say something, people will move," he said. "If you are a smoker, go off to the edge where there is no one around." St. Jean said he recognizes the city has a right to ticket people who ignore the law, even if he thinks it could be avoided. "If it's the law, it's the law," he said. People gather to play Pokemon Go at Dick Bell Park. (David Kawai/Postmedia) The smoking crackdown comes just two weeks after a parking blitz that saw bylaw officers issue 264 tickets in a three-day period. Witnesses described it as parking chaos that weekend, as drivers visiting Dick Bell Park and the nearby Nepean Sailing Club illegally parked cars on the grass or along the roadways. Some received tickets for not moving their cars by 11 p.m., when the park closed. The tickets totalled $11,880, and that's if you paid them early. Bylaw officers are continuing to ticket drivers who don't follow the parking rules. They issued another 52 parking tickets on Thursday night alone, which is a race night at the sailing club. Each ticket carries a $45 fine if paid within 15 days; otherwise, it's $65. Dan Chenier, the general manager of the city's parks, recreation and cultural services department, said in an email statement earlier this week that the city will be putting up new signs. No parking signs have since been painted on the pavement to better identify where people can park. The city said it has also worked out an arrangement with the Nepean Sailing Club that will see its members receive special parking permits so they can park past 11 p.m. The city has also agreed to allow members additional special events parking on the sailing club's race nights. "Nepean Sailing Club is accustomed to dealing with all sorts of challenges, from freak storms to ever-increasing electricity costs," wrote Ross Laver, the sailing club's vice commodore in a newsletter to members last week. "But who could have foreseen that in the summer of 2016, our biggest headache would be a game that encourages hordes of people to roam the city in search of cartoon creatures they can capture, train and send into combat against those of other players?" Those challenges included Pokemon Go players gaining access to the club's Wi-Fi password and slowing their Internet down so much that staff could barely send or receive emails, Laver wrote. The sailing club has been telling its members in emails that if they received a ticket for parking past 11 p.m. to let the club know and it will try to have it reversed.

Vice null Time12 August 2016 21:14:47

Ottawa park's Pokémon Go parking woes lead to nearly $12,000 in tickets

03 August 2016 02:23:18 Ottawa Citizen - News

What do you get when you mix a Pokémon Go hot spot, a sailing club and a city park? A busted Wi-Fi network and nearly $11,880 in parking tickets, apparently. At least that was the case last weekend, when Ottawa bylaw officers descended on Dick Bell Park off Carling Avenue and handed out 264 parking tickets during a three-day blitz. One hundred and thirty-four tickets were handed out on the Monday alone. The ticketing at the park, which juts out into the Ottawa River, comes as it's discovered newfound popularity as a great spot to catch Pokémon. Since the release of the online game, which involves players using their mobile devices to try to find and catch the online creatures, an estimated 200 to 300 players are flocking to the lighthouse on the point across from the Nepean Sailing Club nightly. The result is often parking chaos, as cars are left on the lawn or lining the roadways once the designated parking spots are filled. Drivers are also leaving their cars in the lot after the park's 11 p.m. closing, another no-no, according to the city's bylaw department. Each offence carries a $45 fine. And the weekend ticketing was indiscriminate, catching both Pokémon Go players and members of the sailing club. The club members, who pay annual fees, now often arrive to find no place to park, even though in years past they say they were able to park on the grass without ever getting a ticket. Sailing club member Miles Hammond found himself ticketed after parking on the grass Monday. He said the lot was so full that cars were driving up and down the grass looking for spots. "I can't wait for a parking spot because the guys who are playing Pokémon are there for, like, 12 hours, eight hours," said Hammond, who said he recognizes Pokémon players have as much right to the parking spots as he does since it's a public park. "It's not like there is a fast turnover in parking spots." Hammond said he parked on the grass probably 10 times in the past four years without a problem, particularly on busy Thursday race nights at the sailing club. "Is this just like a three-month craze with Pokémon or is it going to get worse because more people find out it's a really good spot to go? Or are people not going to show up because they don't want parking tickets?" Hammond asked. Pokémon Go player Ziad Sami El-Zoor said he came back to his car Saturday night to find a double whammy — a ticket each for both parking on the side of the road and another for being there after 11 p.m. El-Zoor said there were no signs telling them they couldn't park where they parked or that they'd be ticketed after 11 p.m. (There are no-parking signs along one side of the road leading to the parking lot and in the loop in front of the sailing club.) Adam Girardi, 17, said he, too, got a ticket Monday. He said he figured other cars were parked on the grass, so he could as well. "Everyone was parked there. There was no issue," said Girardi. "If there was a sign there, I wouldn't have parked." "Ottawa needs to lighten up a little bit," added El-Zoor, a 30-year-old hair stylist. "We're not doing any harm. It's a bunch of people getting together, playing a game." Scott Campbell, program manager of enforcement for bylaw, said the enforcement has nothing to do with Pokémon Go and everything to do with drivers not being able to just leave their cars wherever they want. "It wouldn't be green space if we just let them use it," said Campbell. "You just can't abandon it wherever you so choose." "I think it's a bit of common sense," he added. "If there was no spots on the street you wouldn't necessarily park in somebody's driveway, on the sidewalk or wherever just because you want to park." Campbell said a sign is only required warning drivers to not park on parkland after closing if the park closes at any time other than 11 p.m., when most parks typically close. "It's like on-street parking. There's no signs for hydrants, there's no signs for intersections, there's no signs for driveways. They are rules that you are basically supposed to know," he said. "These are the number of spaces and the number of vehicles the park can accommodate, and after that it's just not free will to do what you wish." Campbell said officers received two complaints about people camping, smoking and drinking in the park. While they found none of those, they did find parking infractions. Campbell said the city routinely enforces parking in city parks, particularly on weekends. Campbell said the city could also ticket people who remain in the park in general after 11 p.m. under a separate bylaw, although so far have been choosing to educate violators about the rules and asking them to leave. Heather Erven, business manager at the Nepean Sailing Club, said co-existing with the Pokémon Go players has presented new challenges. The sailing club has already had to shut off its free Wi-Fi for members after Pokémon Go players figured out their password and crashed their Internet service. Pokémon Go players have also started appearing in their lobby looking to charge their devices and parked in dedicated spots reserved for vehicles with boat trailers that need a special permit. But Erven said Pokémon Go players have every right to use the public park. The sailing club leases the building from the city. Erven said the number of Pokémon Go players who routinely gather at the park is "quite impressive." "They are people who never would have seen Dick Bell Park. However, are we benefitting from it? No. Not at all," she said. Erven said they've asked the city for better signage. In a memo to club members, the management said they are trying to get tickets for parking overnight reversed. Campbell said one of his supervisors was meeting with the sailing club Tuesday. Campbell said the sailing club has an exemption for members parking past 11 p.m., since they have a lease with the city, and bylaw is working with the club to find a way to identify member's vehicles.

Vice null Time03 August 2016 02:23:18