I’m no fan of surface parking lots downtown, but even if we succeed at getting rid of some of them many will remain. We’ll always have a need for parking downtown, and it won’t always be in a closed structure like a parkade. If you believe the mantra that “as goes your downtown, so goes your city” then you should care about these parking lots. Parking lots take up lots of space and directly impact how clean, safe, and vibrant downtown is or is perceived to be. We need to start holding our parking lots downtown to a higher standard.
Example of a bad parking lot
The parking lot on the west side of 103 Street just south of 103 Avenue is one of the worst parking lots downtown. You can see it on maps.edmonton.ca here. Here it is on Google Street View – it has not changed since the imagery was recorded.
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There’s a lot to dislike about this parking lot. It is not paved, resulting in a huge mess whenever there’s rain or snow.
There is no landscaping around the lot. It looks ugly from every angle. The empty wooden box along the sidewalk has potential but instead is an eyesore. There isn’t a clear separation between the parking lot and the sidewalk.
There are no cameras in sight, no theft prevention signs anywhere. You don’t get the sense that someone is looking after this parking lot.
At night, the lot feels incredibly unsafe. It has very poor lighting – the bulk of the light that does exist is actually from the Pattison advertisement.
Example of a good parking lot
The parking lot at Jasper Avenue and 99 Street, beside the World Trade Centre building, is one of the best parking lots downtown (except for the fact that it is located on Jasper Avenue, which I really don’t like). You can see it on maps.edmonton.ca here (plus adjacent plots of land). Here it is on Google Street View, and you can see that it has actually been improved since the imagery was recorded. That itself is a positive thing about this parking lot – someone is looking after it!
There are a bunch of things I like about this parking lot. I like that it is paved and that the parking lines are clearly marked.
I like that there is some landscaping around the parking lot. It makes it look much more attractive, and the transparent fencing results in a nice blend of vehicles and pedestrians on the sidewalk.
You’ll note on the far wall, the side of the World Trade Centre building, that there are cameras. Activity in this parking lot is being recorded. There are also signs about preventing theft throughout the lot.
At night, the parking lot is very well lit. There are no dark corners. You feel safe walking in this parking lot at night.
Most of downtown Edmonton’s parking lots are bad
The list of positives might actually be longer than the things I have pointed out above, but I think there are a few things that all good parking lots must have:
- Paved aisles and entryways (at least)
- Bright, evenly distributed lighting
- Landscaping and trash receptacles
- Some separation between cars and pedestrians (a non-opaque fence, for example)
- Monitoring, by security camera or guard or both
If you walk around downtown, you’ll quickly realize that there are very few parking lots that meet this criteria. Most are gravel lots, with no landscaping, limited lighting, no fencing, and no sense that anyone is looking after them. They are eyesores, and they contribute to the feeling that downtown is dirty and unsafe.
What can we do about it?
I think we need to start holding land owners accountable. If you want to have a surface parking lot on your land, fine, but you have to look after it! Especially if you’re producing revenue from that parking lot. Obviously we as drivers can choose to avoid parking in lots that are not compliant, but I question how effective that would actually be. I think we need the City to start enforcing these things, to make a statement that we care about downtown and that these ugly and unsafe parking lots are not helping. Give land owners 180 days to get compliant, and put up jersey barriers if they don’t.
What do you think?