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Edmonton businesses question reasoning behind new EPark meters

The City of Edmonton is installing EPark meters in the North Edge area, just northwest of the downtown core, leaving some business owners and managers frustrated.

Chris Lerohl, the CEO of Uproot Food Collective, got a shock when he returned after the holiday break.

“We saw someone installing an EPark meter in front of our building early in the morning and we’re like, ‘What is going on? How is this happening? What are the impacts?’”

Lerohl said the city worker installing the paid parking signage told him it would take effect Jan. 15. Lerohl said he wasn’t notified ahead of time but believes the North Edge Businesses Association was.

“It definitely threw us for a bit of a loop.”

He said one of the main reasons the business chose that area of the city was the free parking.

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“If you look out at all the cars that are parked on the street right now, probably 90 per cent of them are all people that work in the buildings on this street. It’s not a retail-dense area,” Lerohl said, adding he doesn’t think parking has been an issue and questions the city’s reasoning.

Click to play video: 'Businesses along Stony Plain Road growing frustrated with construction'

Businesses along Stony Plain Road growing frustrated with construction

He believes it could be an effort to limit the number of construction workers parking on nearby 105 Avenue.

“It’s going to clear up a lot of spaces but it’s going to do it at the detriment of everyone who works and lives in this area,” he said.

“It just creates another disincentive for customers to come visit us, come shop here and really explore the neighbourhood.”

Lerohl hopes the city will reconsider its strategy, look at how the areas are used and survey businesses and residents in the area to avoid putting additional stress on small businesses and their employees.

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“It’s very challenging times. Everything from the pandemic, to the war, inflation, financial markets, it’s been a constant struggle,” he said. “This is just another thing on top of it that brings uncertainty and risk and we don’t know how it will affect our customers and certainly our employees aren’t happy about it.”

Click to play video: 'EPark changes coming May 1 in Edmonton'

EPark changes coming May 1 in Edmonton

The city told Global News that it will be activating new EPark zones with a rate of $1 per hour in the North Edge Business Improvement Area on Jan. 15. It also said the North Edge BIA was notified about the changes in November 2023 and updated about the launch date last week.

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The areas that will have new EPark metres are:

  • 110 Street (105 Avenue to 106 Avenue)
  • 111 Street (105 Avenue to 106 Avenue)
  • 114 Street (105 Avenue to 106 Avenue)
  • 115 Street (105 Avenue to 106 Avenue)

As well, two-hour parking limits will be added at 112 Street (105 Avenue to 106 Avenue) and 113 Street (105 Avenue to 106 Avenue), the city said.

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“A 2023 parking study on the above locations found many had high parking occupancy rates with the average time a stall was occupied exceeding two hours,” Jenny Albers, acting director of traffic operations, said in a statement to Global News.

“We also engaged the North Edge BIA to address parking congestion issues due to competing demands for parking in the area. Introducing a nominal charge was determined to be an optimal way to address a number of competing concerns.

“A combination of paid parking and time-restricted parking can free up space and reduce average parking durations so more customers can find more available parking space, and hopefully contribute to increased visits for the businesses.

“The rate of $1 an hour will help reduce the impact to customers. Reduced congestion also removes barriers for potential customers who walk, bike or use transit to travel, and will hopefully bring more walk-in customers to businesses.”

There is free curbside parking for 15 minutes in all EPark zones in the city, including in the North Edge.

The city’s statement said it wants to hear feedback from businesses in the area but at least two North Edge businesses say that’s not happening.

Click to play video: 'ePark machine errors jump in 2017, make up nearly 80% of all ePark issues'

ePark machine errors jump in 2017, make up nearly 80% of all ePark issues

“The city is just not listening,” said Josh Kovatch, manager of Canna Cabana.

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He said he’s contacted the city about other parking-related issues and the EPark addition was another surprise.

“I did not know anything. We were not consulted,” Kovatch said.

He said he’s frustrated, doesn’t understand the goal and thinks it’s a cash grab.

“I’ve noticed that there’s really no more free parking downtown and this … is just on the cusp of downtown. So I don’t understand why they’re implementing it here.”

Kovatch believes it will negatively impact workers.

“My employees, let alone myself, I don’t know if we’d be able to afford to pay for parking monthly here … I’m here 40 hours a week.”

He’d like the city to reconsider.

“I would like them to reach out and talk to the businesses down here.”

Kris Burwash, owner of Listen Records, said he was “annoyed” to see EPark metres installed, but not surprised.

“It’s a major city and we’re basically downtown,” he said. “I was shocked it wasn’t metered earlier.”

Click to play video: 'City of Edmonton considering paid parking at some parks, attractions'

City of Edmonton considering paid parking at some parks, attractions

Burwash said what used to be a towaway zone between 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. is now $1-per-hour paid parking.

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“It’s pretty cheap. I think it’s a buck an hour. It’s not bad. They’ve actually extended the hours. It’s metered until 6 p.m. so you can park any time, so it’s sort of better, I guess?

“I don’t think it’s really changed anything.

“I think it’s to curb some of the construction traffic … from parking there. The construction has way more effect on us than the parking.”

The city explained the new EPark zones are part of changes to the pricing structure started in 2023 in the other BIAs, and “is one of the objectives in the city’s Curbside Management Strategy to deliver more thoughtful management of curbside space in Edmonton.”

New accessible zones will also be added to:

  • 115 Street (105 Avenue and 106 Avenue)
  • 114 Street (105 Avenue and 106 Avenue)
  • 113 Street (west side only close to 106 Avenue)
  • 111 Street (west side only close to 106 Avenue)

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