Some cities are making metered parking free during the COVID-19 outbreak, but New Westminster isn’t one of them.
On March 30, the City of Vancouver introducedtemporary changes to some operations to support essential workers and protect frontline staff during the current state of emergency. In response to the changing demands for parking, particularly for healthcare workers, Vancouver temporarily suspended enforcement of metered parking, rush-hour zones, residential permit-parking zones and parking time limits, including the three-hour parking restriction.
“At this time, all curbside regulations in New Westminster remain status quo, including paying for parking, permit parking and time regulated parking,” said Aaron Hilgerdenaar, superintendant of street-use enforcement, parking and animal services.
However, Hilgerdenaar said street-use and parking enforcement officers have been directed to prioritize regulations that protect vulnerable populations, including accessible parking stalls and violations that pose a safety hazard like blocking fire hydrants, crosswalks, stop signs and driveways.
“Our strategy also takes into account the need to support our local businesses during this difficult time,” he said in an email to the Record. “We have noted that the occupancy in commercial areas with pay parking has decreased significantly, and we will continue to monitor the situation and modify parking enforcement as needed.”
Hilgerdenaar said the city’s bylaw team has also been deployed to proactively patrol parks and ensure compliance with the orders and recommendations of the provincial health officer regarding physical distancing and group gatherings – with public safety being its focus. Parking services staff may also be drawn on to perform Emergency Operations Task Force work.
On March 27, city council endorsed a recommendation from the education and enforcement working group to hire three new bylaw officers, likely city employees who are out of work because of facilities closures resulting from COVID-19. These new bylaw officers would support enforcement of provincial health orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, such as physical distancing, allowing more-experienced bylaw officers to focus issues such as homelessness.
A press release from the City of Vancouver stated traffic volumes and parking demands have dropped significantly as a result of residents doing their part by staying home as much as possible. While metered parking isn’t being enforced in Vancouver, parking enforcement officers are continuing to enforce parking in spots designated for people with disabilities, safety violations (such as parking too close to a crosswalk, intersection, or in front of a fire hydrant), impeding the movement of others (like blocking a driveway or lane), and special zones that must remain open for other purposes (including goods-delivery loading zones, bus zones and bus stops, passenger pickup and drop-off zones).
“As a result, the need to enforce certain types of parking is no longer required,” stated the press release. “At the same time, many essential workers, including health-care professionals, are working longer and more frequent shifts. The suspension of these parking-enforcement services will support the people who are working hard to keep our community safe and healthy.”
The province announced that it is providing free parking on its properties for hospital staff and visitors effective April 1. This includes Royal Columbian Hospital.
“City staff have been in contact with and continue to collaborate with the Fraser Health Authority to assess their parking needs during this time,” Hilgerdenaar said. “If any changes were to be implemented on New Westminster streets, the city would first assess the needs and interests of the neighbourhood residents and local businesses; any announcement of changes would come in the form of a press release. This situation is quite dynamic, with changes occurring daily, so we appreciate the collaboration of residents and the resounding support for essential workers during this difficult time.”