(Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

(Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer’s parking meters will soon operate from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

‘The idea is to have people stay downtown longer’

Paid parking in downtown Red Deer will soon start an hour earlier and end a half-hour sooner.

The city’s parking meters are being reprogrammed to start ticking at 8 a.m., instead of 9 a.m., and to finish by 4:30 p.m., instead of 5 p.m.

The changes will also affect the city’s daily parking lots.

The new hours were enacted on the advice of the Downtown Business Association, said Amy Fengstad, the city’s parking and licensing superintendent.

“The idea is to have people stay downtown longer,” she added.

Businesses that regularly open at 8 a.m. had complained that downtown employees (who also start work early) were parking on the street and taking up customer spaces to take advantage of free parking before the meters start running.

“Apparently, they were moving their cars during their coffee breaks,” said Fengstad.

To ensure street parking remains open for customers, the business association suggested the city start paid parking an hour earlier.

Businesses also urged the city to stop paid parking in the downtown before 5 p.m., to give people who might want to stop for dinner or a drink after work the incentive of free parking.

The Downtown Business Association suggested paid parking end at 3:30 p.m., but the city compromised by stopping it at 4:30 p.m.

Fengstad anticipates it will take about four days to reprogram all the city 1,073 metres. Wording on signage will also be changed to state more plainly the maximum hours that motorists can park in a particular spot.

Busier streets, such as Ross Street, will continue to have a two-hour maximum, while side streets will allow for longer curbside parking.

The per-hour parking charges are not changing, said Fengstad, who doesn’t anticipate that the switch that’s now underway will make an appreciable difference to the city’s annual parking revenues.

The municipality collected more than $1.7 million from parking in 2019.

Fengstad said the city has collected $675,000 from parking charges so far this year, but the fees had been lifted between mid-March and June 22 at meters (and until Aug. 4 on city lots) because of the pandemic.

New parking hours will apply as soon as meters are reprogrammed. Fengstad said the city will give motorists a one-week grace period to get used to the changes before tickets are issued.

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