With parking rates, who’s right, Ford or Lehman? Turns out they both are

“We don’t want people’s $50 and we don’t want to issue a ton of parking tickets or bylaw tickets – we want to reduce the crowds and help make sure people stay safe.” – Mayor Jeff Lehman

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As you probably already know, Premier Doug and Mayor Jeff got into a little dustup over the City’s recent move to hike the parking rates at waterfront lots, a move, says the mayor, to try and curb out-of-town visitors and give COVID-driven distancing a chance to work.
Here’s a reminder, just in case it’s needed.
A June 22 staff report recommended raising the rates from $3 an hour to $5 an hour, and that the daily maximum by hiked from $20 to $30. When council reviewed the report, the suggested rate increases were found to be on the low side, so an amendment was made, and approved, that set the rate at $10 an hour, and a maximum of $50 for the day.
Set fines and late payment rates were also hiked; the staff report recommended increasing the fine for a parking infraction along the waterfront from $30 to $60, and the early-pay amount for a fine from $20 to $50. However, the City recently received approval from the Province to hike the rates to $100 and $75, respectively.
Responding to the increases, Ford recently called them “disgusting,” saying it was an example of price gouging. Mayor Lehman responded on Twitter, saying that perhaps Ford “is not aware of the overcrowding problem on Barrie and Simcoe County beaches that has resulted partly from the Province’s decision to proceed with a phased reopening.
“We don’t want people’s $50 and we don’t want to issue a ton of parking tickets or bylaw tickets – we want to reduce the crowds and help make sure people stay safe.”
Barrie residents with a parking pass are exempt from parking fees, except in the marina lot where a paid pass is required. Paid parking in the downtown core has also been suspended until Sept. 8 to support the Downtown Economic Recovery Plan. Benefits of this plan, says the report, include:
• Providing incentive for customers to access downtown businesses 
• Providing financial relief for downtown owners, staff, and customers 
• Removing potential barrier from customers visiting the downtown 
The Premier has generally garnered positive marks for his handling of the crisis, working hand-in-hand with other levels of governments and delivering science-based guidance and decisions. His approach has won kudos from people of different political persuasions, but perhaps he misspoke this time out. Barrie beaches and waterfront areas are crowded, with many beachgoers absolutely coming from out of town. A quick perusal of the licence plates on cars, bearing point-of-origin markings, will confirm that.
The City has also banned tents and BBQs at Barrie beaches, trails and parks to try and discourage visitors from lingering. Regular bylaw enforcement has also resumed.
However, while the rate increases may deter visitors from crowding the beaches, the report mostly talks about the financial aspects of raising parking rates, rarely mentioning the need to enforce COVID-19 distancing by making the Barrie waterfront too expensive a destination for visitors. Mostly, it has been left to the politicians, including Lehman, to argue the rate hikes are linked to a strategy to reduce crowding.
According to the report, the rate hikes support two objectives: realizing short-term goals for the 2020 summer season, and supporting the downtown economic recovery plan. The strategy is part of a greater Parking Strategy Update, to be presented to council later in the year.
“To achieve short-term paid parking objectives surrounding the waterfront, staff feel it is important to bring forward these recommendations ahead of the summer season to ensure the immediate benefits can be realized,” says the report. 
It continues: “The increase in transient non-resident parking rates would result in up to $288,390 projected increase in revenue which will offset lost parking revenues within the 2020 parking operating budget and be incorporated into future business plans.” 
Clearly there is a financial aspect to the report. Whether that adds up to gouging, as Ford suggests, is open to interpretation. If you are a Barrie resident and not subject to the fees and fines, you are probably more open to the overcrowding point. If a visitor, however, Ford’s comment may resonate.
One final comment on this. Despite the increased rates, the beaches seem to be as crowded as ever on the weekends, with very little distancing going on. If it really is about COVID-19, it seems the City needs additional measures to thin out the crowds and limit the number of visitors coming to Barrie to enjoy the waterfront.