Finding a parking spot can be a challenge for Winnipegger Shawn Smith.

“Sometimes we’re walking a few blocks no matter what because it’s just cramped, but it’s a big hospital so I understand it, but it’s still a pain in the butt,” said Smith.

Twice a week Smith has to take his daughter Alaiyah to the Variety Children’s Heart Centre. Smith said he’s gotten parking tickets in the area a number of times.

“To be honest, it sucks, but it is what it is,” said Smith. “I mean, if I want to keep driving, I have to pay, right? Unfortunately.”

In 2018, the Winnipeg Parking Authority handed out 145,000 tickets, about 10 per cent of which were warnings. 

Many of those tickets were left on windshields in the Exchange District and Downtown area, covering streets like Bannatyne, McDermot, and Hargrave.

The number one street for parking tickets is William Avenue, which runs from the Exchange past theHealth Sciences Centre. Last year, 4,531 tickets were given out on that stretch. 

Jino Distasio, the director of the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg, said he’s not surprised that core-area streets are getting the most tickets. 

“Certainly in the downtown, we see a lot of intensity of activities and you’ve got to have that turnover,” said Distasio. “It’s a lot of people running in for a meal, going to see an event, or often, to a medical appointment.”

Distasio said it’s also important to note Winnipeg’s downtown has grown in the last 10 years, meaning parking is only getting tighter. 

“We have so many more activities going on in the downtown. There’s thousands more people living in the downtown, so you have that residential mix into this now. More condos, more apartments, more people,” Distasio said.

Ryan Arabsky with the Winnipeg Parking Authority (WPA) said they look at customers and business complaints to help determine where patrol officers should focus.

“The biggest thing we’re looking for with enforcement and compliance, is that we’re looking for turnover, we’re looking for safety, and traffic flow,” said Arabsky. 

The city said numbers for 2018 aren’t ready yet, but in 2017, parking tickets generated more than $8.3 million in revenue. The city said that money goes back into the parking authority, and any surplus may go to council’s general revenue fund.

The WPA said tickets are handed out for a number of reasons.

“It could be anything from an expired meter. It could be parking past a rush hour time. It could be snow routes. It could be safety things, like blocking accessible spaces,” Arabsky said.

Distasio points to the WPA’s pay by phone app, as a way it’s making it easier for drivers to avoid tickets.

“I think the city has actually tried to modernize parking. Are we there yet? No, but we’re making strides,” said Distasio. “The violations always come down to us, the drivers, who park over.”

Meanwhile, Smith has found other ways to avoid paying any more than he has to.

“The bus is a lot easier with the prices down here. It really is. I mean, I’m not going to pay four or five bucks for an hour, when I can just pay that in bus fare for the whole day,” said Smith. 

The average parking ticket costs $70, though if paid within 14 days it’s $52.50.

Caught on camera

As for where you’re most likely to get a ticket from a red light camera, you need to travel just outside the Exchange District or down to St. Vital.

According to Winnipeg Police Service data, you’re most likely to be caught speeding on camera on northbound Main Street at Logan Avenue. Last year, 4,134 tickets were mailed out, which is much higher than any other intersection in the city. 

Insp. Gord Spado said a lot of people don’t realize that stretch is 50 kilometres an hour, and many go over 60. 

Meanwhile, westbound Bishop Grandin Boulevard at River Road is where you’re most likely to get caught running a red light. In 2018, police said 1,504 tickets were clocked at this intersection from the red light camera. 

Spado said this intersection has always been a bit of a concern for people.

“The issue is that it’s an 80 kilometre an hour zone, and people don’t necessarily react as quickly as they need to for when the light turns amber,” said Spado. “There is sufficient time to stop, but if you don’t plan for it, if you’re not prepared to stop when it turns amber, you tend to run the red light.”

Spado said the red light cameras have been very static since they’ve been installed, meaning they haven’t really been moved.

“People know where they are. If you’re ever driving around, you’ll see people slow down for them. They’ll go through, and then they’ll immediately accelerate.”

He said while intersections with cameras have become safer, drivers haven’t changed their behaviours overall. 

“We are looking at maybe relocating some intersection safety cameras to properly reflect some of the higher risk intersections,” said Spado.