Creative parking

Creative parking 1

As the snow fell this weekend on Montreal, the post-snowfall ritual sprang into action. It usually starts with lots of people complaining about the fact that the snow hasn’t been plowed yet. The complaints come so fast I have a feeling they’re written before the snow starts falling in the first place. With the complaints come increasingly ludicrous suggestions on how to fix the problem, such as:

Almost all the letters are ignorant of just how much organization goes into plowing streets in Montreal, and assume that, without having spent a single second inside a snow plow, they know better how to efficiently clear streets.

Really, the complaints are more misplaced frustration at having to spend two hours digging out their car with a shovel when they were already late for work. Sadly, no magical solution has been found for that yet.

The city then gives a guesstimate about how long it will take to clear, overemphasizing the fact that more snow or rain will delay the operation.

Then, as the plows finally come by to clear the streets, car-owners who ignored no-parking signs panic to relocate them before getting a ticket.

The big difference this time is that the city decided to open up its paid parking lots for free overnight parking (when they’re not used anyway). Drivers can park their cars in them during snow-clearing operations, provided they get them out of there by 6am 7am (thanks Andy) the next day.

Except, because the move was poorly publicized (or because no one wants to get up that early), the lots sat unused this time.

So instead, drivers desperate for a place to park had to each solve the standard snowbank parking dilemma. When faced with a free spot knee-deep in snow, there are three options:

  1. Find some temporary place to stash the car and dig the spot out with a shovel, hoping nobody swoops in and steals the spot after you’ve cleared it (this also presents the recursive problem of where to put the car when you’re clearing the spot)
  2. Declare the spot unparkable, and keep going looking for another one, which most likely doesn’t exist
  3. Drive the car as far as it will go into the spot, and then give up, leaving it either parked diagonally, parked far from the curb, or both

The pictures below show some Montreal drivers who chose Option 3 on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Creative parking 2

This was pretty mild compared to the diagonal parking going on.

Creative parking 3

Aside from the coolness factor of a bus passing by as I took the photo, this shows clearly that one diagonal parker begats another.

Creative parking 4

Though there are deep snowbanks here, each car clearly has another three or four feet at least behind it.

Creative parking 5

Ditto here (license plates blurred to protect the guilty).

Creative parking 6

I had to measure this one. There isn’t a single part of this car less than 10 feet (3 metres) from the curb. The law gives a maximum distance of 30 cm.

Creative parking 7

12 hours later, it’s still anarchy.

Creative parking 8

These cars all look like they’re waiting in line for the red light in the middle lane. Well, they are in the middle lane, but they’re all parked.

Creative parking 9

This one set a new record: Over 11 feet (3.3m), 11 times the legal limit.

Creative parking 10

I can’t begin to describe how illegal this park job is.

Should this be tolerated?

Even though these vehicles were all parked illegally (and drastically so), not one had a ticket in the windshield. It seems police quietly tolerate such activity during snowstorms, giving drivers a break, at the expense of traffic and especially large traffic like buses and trucks which have to squeeze through what little space is left on the road.

Is this right? Should some short-term anarchy be tolerated because of the difficulty in finding alternative spaces to park? Or should drivers be screwed over, forced en masse to find some other solution that either doesn’t exist or is already being used to capacity?

11 thoughts on “Creative parking

  1. Christopher DeWolf

    I think that angle parking is a perfectly reasonable solution during snow emergencies. In fact, there are many wide streets that should have permanent angle parking, which has been known to calm traffic and provide more parking spaces.

  2. Eric

    What are ya going to do, most people seem to do the best they can but the police should crack down on obnoxious people, they should be easy to spot since most of them drive BMWs anyways:P

  3. James Lawlor

    Having attended the NDG-CDN borough council meeting last night you need to add a few more complaints to your list.
    – How come Joe’s street was cleared before mine? – My street is more important because it leads to a Hospital/daycare/senior’s home/local bar etc…
    – The street/sidewalk is too icy – often associated with a claim that another borough or city clears the snow better.
    – The sidewalk tractors didn’t clear my part of the street

    The problem is not just the city. Residents that shovel snow from their driveway or from around their car often throw it on the sidewalk. If it gets too high, the sidewalk tractor can’t clear the snow and it will stay piled up until the whole street is cleared.
    Garbage cans that are on the sidewalk when the sidewalk tractor comes by result in a significant portion of the sidewalk not being cleared because the operator won’t get out and move it.

  4. Margret Frederick

    One year I received a fine for parking the only way that was possible (facing the curb at an angle rather than backing in – because the way the snow had been piled (5ft high plus snowbanks) made it impossible to see where I was going when I tried to back in. after an enormous snowstorm last winter. The ticket referred to a regulation related to driving on the wrong side of the street. It was pretty mean-spirited of whoever did that to give me that ticket considering the state of the street. Recently I witnessed people receiving fines because of parking at a slight angle when there was really no other way to park – during the biggest snowfall this winter after which it took many days for the contractors to remove the snow even from major streets (Cavendish Blvd near Sherbrooke). This was truly mean-spirited of the enforcers – never mind that it was also a low income housing area – where there could be no doubt that most ticket recipients were also already struggling to survive.

    So, if they are giving people a break now – that’s good to hear and I definitely believe that this should be the rule rather than the exception in such circumstances. Based on prior experiences it seems that the opposite is true – being a driver in Montreal seems nowadays to being part of a group of people as though we are all borderline criminals deserving of consistent targetting and harassment for the most mudane of reasons.

    In the early 80s I was informed by an official involved with collecting from those who with parking tickets – that the city was collecting 40 million dollars a year from parking tickets. This when parking tickets were $10 with a $5 administration fee. At current fee levels the amount being raked in could be closer to 40 billion for all we know.

    It is not difficult to comprehend why there is no movement towards creating a more humane and efficient method of transit – incorporating easy to store and manage fuel efficient and small size metro vehicles for inner city transport. What progress will we ever make in creating efficient transit in our cities as long as the parking tickets cash cow continues to be focused on as a profit center having as its primary aim extracting as much cash as possible from drivers? The motivation appears to be to continue to develop ever more ways to extract money from citizens who drive (it’s starting to feel like a playing a game of chance to just drive in the city) rather than developing and improving reasonable service to our citizens.

    Isn’t it about time the servants of the public start serving the public rather than consuming it?

  5. Mark

    In response to the comment above…

    “One year I received a fine for parking the only way that was possible (facing the curb at an angle rather than backing in – because the way the snow had been piled (5ft high plus snowbanks) made it impossible to see where I was going when I tried to back in.”

    I am going to play devil’s advocate if only to provide this reminder: Nobody is forcing you into your car, nobody is forcing you to resort to parking illegally. Driving is a privilege, should be a privilege, and should be treated as such. I am sure so many more serious parking infringements have seemed relatively mundane to the driver, who might not realize that they are in a bus lane, blocking a crosswalk, etc. To me, YOUR reasons seem kind of mundane…if you cannot see where you are parking, you can always get out of the car and check. Yes, it is an extra hassle, but you are choosing to drive in a city where, especially after a snowfall, parking is difficult or impossible to find on many city streets. There is just no way possible that the city ever could clear snow from the roads, sidewalks AND parking spaces in time.

    “being a driver in Montreal seems nowadays to being part of a group of people as though we are all borderline criminals deserving of consistent targetting and harassment for the most mudane of reasons.”

    Mundane to WHOM? Why is it that so many frequent drivers seem to think they know exactly why every parking or driving regulation exists, and why it is okay for them to break them now and then (because it’s, after all, not really that big a deal). Every day in my twenty minute walk to work (which, of course, is not something that everybody can do–or wants to do, but WALKING is a right…and also, granted, the stretch that I walk is not particularly well designed for ANYBODY, including the drivers), I am able to witness numerous traffic infringements on almost every trip. Most of the time they are very minor, but collectively creates an enormous nuisance. A few times I have even witnessed somebody being injured, and only once have I witnessed somebody killed (in this case, it was a driver who ran a red light and shockingly mowed down a cyclist passing through on the green. Of course everybody in using this shared space has responsibilities, I am not trying to just blame drivers). I have witnessed many more times sidewalks being blocked, cars parked illegally (you might be surprised to know how disruptive that can be), or aggressive drivers locking me in the middle of an intersection instead of giving me the right of way. Twice I have been clipped by drivers who treat the city street like a highway onramp. On the bus, I think anybody who has taken the bus knows…it is commonplace for the city bus to be cut off in traffic, blocked from changing lanes.

    Let’s just face it: In this environment, drivers are a nuisance, and unlike pedestrians and cyclists are isolated in fast moving boxes that weigh hundreds of pounds, are noisy, and spew toxic chemicals into the air. To be sure, driving in this city is quite a hassle. But, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, if you are trying to suggest that to make traffic more efficient that the answer is to make it easier for everybody to be able to drive and park anywhere they want at any time, there honestly wouldn’t be much of the city left. The answer is to offer a VARIETY of efficient transportation options, not to make it easy to drive and offer cheap, plentiful parking.

    Relax, and next time think about taking the bus when there has been an enormous snowstorm. That is probably what a lot of these low-income residents who “were also already struggling to survive” choose to do.

  6. Happy Go Lucky

    Mark, go back to France! I’m sure your bike works real swell in 5 feet of snow. And even if people use a public form of transportation to get to work, they still have to move their cars around their home because of alternate parking hours. Furthermore, buses suck and they only thing the metro will get you is a cold. And imagine this, some of us have family and friends off the island. And some of us don’t feel like travelling 2 hours by metro and bus to see them. So yes, we do have cars. And no, we don’t use them for work.

    The bottom line is, about 15 days out of the year we tolerate angulated parking. What’s the big deal. Sure, some people exagerate. Parking backwards for instance, or blocking the side walk. Beside theses terrible examples, get a good laugh out of it. Suck it up, and give up the hate and anger you feel towards drivers and I’ll give up the hate I feel for cyclists which zip through traffic like they are driving a tank. You know the ones that get mad, when I stay in my lane. Oh, and just a reminder, go back to France you hippie.

  7. Mark

    Strange that I am actually an American ex-pat, not a French hippie…you could have been farther off, I suppose…I am a foreigner…Nice to see these wonderful attitudes all the way up here, too.

    Anyway, agreed, bad cyclists suck for um…pretty much everyone. I guess…okay, fine…I’ll give up my hate of bad drivers if you give up your hate of…um…not cyclists, keep that…we all can’t stand them… um…French hippies…eh, on the fence. What the hell, keep that, too. Eh, you know what? Hate what you want. Drivers are as annoying as cyclists, but it’s unlikely that a cyclist who isn’t paying attention might kill you, even if *sniff, sniff* life is SO hard for poor drivers. Do you honestly think that making it easier and cheaper to drive is AT ALL a solution to any of these problems? And who do you think should foot the bill for moving these cars out of the way? or should we bulldoze a couple blocks for people to keep them, here and there, when we get the crazy snowstorm? (I guess the space could be used for the Jazz Fest during the summer months.) Honestly, there are people who are angry because you get ticketed for parking in places, among others, slated for snow removal, and then complain when the snow takes a long time to remove because people have not moved their cars?

    I never disagreed with the idea of angled parking. As somebody pointed out in a recent reply, it doesn’t make much sense why more streets don’t have them. It is surprising sometimes to hear what some of my friends get tickets for. And surely for those of us who use a car to, say, leave our neighborhood to visit friends (as if I have never done that, wow), well, it sucks that parking is hard to find when it snows (much better out in the environments designed for it, though). And of course it sucks that it is near impossible to get to some places using public transit here. And yes, moving the car is annoying too. What is your point? Snow doesn’t move itself. It sucks for just about everybody who needs to get around. We have sucked it up. The most i have heard pedestrians complaining about is because the sidewalks are so icy, or that drivers and landowners shovel their parking spots/lawns/staircases (the owners of which may or may not drive a car everywhere) onto the sidewalk. I was really complaining to those who just don’t seem to get it: if it’s annoying you, it’s still your problem.

    My point was this: Sometimes the solution to the problem does not have to involve making life easier for drivers. I know it might be a lot to stomach, but there are other solutions. I even thought the free parking at night in city lots seemed like a nice compromise, though.

    Maybe some people should just move down South, to my neck of the woods. It never snows and you really have no choice but to drive everywhere And there’s so few of those icky buses and trains (GROSS!!). Sound nice?

    P.S. You might have noticed that I suggested that EVERYBODY has responsibilities on the road…I cannot understand how you might have thought I meant “Cyclist anarchy.” Sorry if you caught on to my annoyance level a bit too keenly…but take it easy!

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