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EDITORIAL: Rules can't be wishy-washy

Studs work well in certain conditions. The new generation of winter tires are superior the remainder of the time, especially on slushy, wet or dry roads.
- The Chronicle Herald

City of Charlottetown has to clarify overnight winter parking rules and take out discretionary guesswork

The City of Charlottetown has to clarify its overnight winter parking rules and take the discretionary guesswork out of the hands of residents and enforcement officers.

From Nov. 15 to April 15, the city’s parking ban runs from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., but as Katherine Ballem recently found out, its discretionary aspects can defy common sense and end up in a $50 ticket.

She did what any rational person would have done under the city’s policy. Even though the city issued a parking restriction advisory, she looked at the road conditions on Queen Street and at her parking space, saw no snow, and assumed that discretion would come into play and the parking ban wouldn’t be enforced. She assumed wrong.

Then she went home and saw cars parked on the street during snow clearing, but none of the vehicles were ticketed.

When contradictions arise, people get upset. They want clear and consistent rules. But the city’s policy is wishy-washy at best.

For one, the city “strives” to alert the public of when parking restrictions are in place. So, the city doesn’t have to be successful in alerting the public, it only has to try. That’s hardly reassuring when you’re shelling out $50 for a ticket. The city also recommends not parking on the streets during the ban’s hours in order to “avoid the risk” of being ticketed or towed. Thanks for the recommendation, but people want to actually know if their car is going to be ticketed or towed, not if there is a risk that it can happen.

Interestingly, Summerside is having the opposite debate. They’re talking about loosening their strict parking ban to take into account times when there’s no snow clearing.

Summerside residents may not like the strict ban, but at least they have a clear understanding of the rules. Summerside is also right to start the ban at 1 a.m. rather than at 11 p.m. (in Charlottetown), which gives drivers two extra hours to spend money at downtown businesses and restaurants without worrying about getting a ticket.

As far as discretionary policies are concerned, Mayor Basil Stewart is right to point out that they’re hard to enforce, especially when you’re trying to make distinctions between “four centimetres (of snow) you can park, but five centimetres you can’t park.”

He calls it a “can of worms,” and Ballem’s ticket clearly shows what a can of worms looks like when it opens up.

Charlottetown has to clean up the language in its policy and enforce a stricter one. Residents may not like it, but at least they’ll have a clear understanding of what the rules are so they can follow them. And if they break the rules, they’ll have nobody to blame but themselves.

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