While I was loitering on the streets of Montreal recently, I snapped a photo of their parking system downtown. I was struck by how clear and how simple it is. In downtown Montreal the parking spaces are marked on the roads in lines and each pair of spaces has a marker like this:
Pay at the station and go. These are the times that you have to pay. Everything is easy to read ... even the French. The actual meters that dispense the tickets are equally simple. It's all explained here on an equally clear and simple website.
Winnipeg's parking meters, by comparison, are a dog's breakfast:
There's a lot going on there. Let's take an extreme close up of the main part:
What does that say in the blue? Minimum Change? Minimum Charge? It's Mon to Sat but it's enforced daily? What is all that little typing at the bottom of the dark yellow section?
I've been told that we get two free hours of parking on Saturday, but I don't know how the hell I would tell that from this label. If somebody has poor eye sight or a bad hangover they wouldn't even be able to read the days and times.
To make matters worse, the rate is different depending on where you are because certain meters are operated by different authorities like Forks-North Portage or Health Sciences Centre, and then there are the proposed "high demand zones" with special rates. See the 34 page presentation for more information, including the "parking triangle" that tells us that we cannot have "convenience", "availability" and "price".
Much like Montreal, Winnipeg's parking authority has a web site. That's where the similarity ends. Winnipeg's web site features 39 paragraphs, 860 words, and zero diagrams. It contains useful information if you want to park downtown, such as:
Payment for the full 4 hours of parking is required if you park at a 2-hour paystation and use payment methods other than coins or a credit card (ed. note: WTF?)
If you like to leave your heater on defrost, fan on high, and start your car from inside fifteen minutes before your appointment is over, your receipt will end up on the floor.
Always check for signs indicating parking restrictions before you pay for on-street parking. If more than one sign is posted, look at the signs starting at the highest sign and work your way down. (Translation: if our meters don't confuse the fuck out of you, our signs will.)Fortunately the web site also links to a video called "How Pay Stations Work". Unfortunately, it shows up as nothing more than a black screen using Firefox.
Our pay stations are so complicated that they have their own language.
If you're planning on visiting Winnipeg, my advice to you is:
- make sure your contact lens prescription is up to date.
- leave plenty of time
- when in doubt, you had better put in money. But just remember:
"In rare cases, the paystation may accept payment when it should not."