Prince Edward Island’s capital city appears to be enjoying a booming summer season.
The parking spaces along Charlottetown’s downtown streets are lined with licence plates from most Canadian provinces and a good number of those from the United States. The sidewalk cafes are out in full force, as are the horses and wagons, food trucks, tour buses and corner gardens.
While these tourist season trappings leave fewer places for downtown workers (including those who toil in this very newspaper’s building) to park for the day, we heartily welcome their presence as evidence of a vibrant city and a healthy economy.
What we find harder to bear, however, are the prolific little pink pieces of paper tucked under our windshields day in and day out.
It seems either the City of Charlottetown has issued a directive or hired a more zealous breed of parking meter attendant than in the past.
One need only walk around a downtown block mid-morning and again mid-afternoon to see scores of parking tickets thrust under the wipers of vehicle after vehicle. Tourists and Islanders alike are the victims of these parking violation crusaders.
They have been observed standing by the meter waiting for it to tick down one last minute, their pens hovering above their ticket pads.
They have checked the licence plate of a running car that took up a spot for no more than a minute with the engine running while waiting to pick up an employee from a downtown business.
They have fanned across the downtown in a seek-and-destroy pattern that resembles a pack of wild animals closing in on a helpless prey.
And helpless the meter violator certainly is.
Once the commissionaire’s pen has touched the pad, no sweet-talking, bargaining or arguing will change the ticket writer’s mind. The slip of pink paper is handed over. The only recourse is to take the sweet talking, bargaining and arguing to the police station or maybe even the courts.
Who is funding these fine fanatics? The very citizens of Charlottetown who dread parking in their own downtown.
It would be interesting to know the cost of hiring parking attendants, installing and repairing meters and the deal struck with parking partners Hot Spot (which will take your meter payments digitally, for an annual fee) compares with how much they rake in in fines. Perhaps it hasn’t been enough, and that’s why there seems to be a sudden push.
What is harder to count is the number of people who just don’t come downtown anymore -- for concern they won’t find a convenient space; for reluctance to pay the $1.50 an hour; or fear of a fine if they misjudge by a minute or two how long their errand will take. It only takes one bad experience with a parking ticket to reinforce a decision to take your business elsewhere.
We’re not suggesting a free-for-all – although Summerside has certainly had success with eliminating meters.
But perhaps the city can encourage some cooling off for their commissionaires. The temperatures and tempers are hot enough.