Well, I have to say that in all my years of activism, I have never seen a resident protest work out so well. The main reason for this, I think, has to be the amount of hard work put in by concerned folks living here in Sydenham. He’s a summary:
This spring, the City surprised us all by announcing that they would be expanding the pilot project for commuter parking permits (introduced recently in the Hotel Dieu area of Sydenham) to the area near the Queen’s campus and KGH. They announced that they would be selling approximately 500 permits to commuters, to meet the demand for all-day parking, and at the same time eliminating all of the free parking in the zone north of campus. This essentially meant that some of our quiet neighbourhood streets would be turned into parking lots. There was understandable outrage, and a resident’s movement to oppose these changes began.
This group, named Neighbourhood Streets, led by residents of Kensington and Beverley, put in many hours over the next few months researching the issue and attempting to find solutions. I was invited to an early meeting on Kensington and after offering my analysis, advised the group on how to mount an effective protest, hoping that City Council would listen. Wow, did they ever!
At City Council back in June, an amendment friendly to the cause and supported by local Councillors Glover and Neill was passed, helped by strong presence in Council Chambers, a good petition, and effective delegations to Council from our residents. It called for a report back to Council before the changes were set to begin in the fall, and as I had recommended, more public input. Over the next few months, the group met several times with city staffer Sheila Kidd, and the interaction was most beneficial. We saw just how beneficial just last night, at the meeting of the Environment Infrastructure and Transport Policies committee.
City staff have significantly altered their position. They have postponed the program launch back to at least May 2015. They have reduced the number of permits to be made available way down to only 107 from the original number more than 4 times that amount. And they have said that they are not offering any commuter permits at all in the area near campus south of Union St (Collingwood & Beverley) where the impact would have been highest.
At this meeting, I was allowed to address the committee. I asked what the sequence of future roll-outs would be regarding Zones C, D, E, which correspond to the western part of Sydenham (E), Portsmouth/SLC (D) and King’s Town/Skeleton Park (C). Ms. Kidd did say that the order of the letters does not have any bearing on the timing of the rollout, but unfortunately she did not have a clear answer to my question so we will have to stay vigilant regarding future changes.
My promise to you, the residents of Sydenham, will be to continue to follow this issue closely as your elected member to Council and to argue for the City to proceed very carefully on this. It is a complex issue, which I feel I have a good grasp of, and we all owe a debt of gratitude to the leaders of Neighbourhood Streets for their amazing work on this file!