“Parking should be friendly, but not free” Dr. Donald Shoup

In October 2019, Green Action Centre partnered with the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ to bring Dr. Donald Shoup to Winnipeg for Parking And The City. This two-day event had the goal of bringing planners, developers, parking managers, city councilors, stakeholders and citizens together to hear from one of the world’s leading experts in parking. Those in attendance had the opportunity to learn, debate and envision how changes to our management of parking could transform our cities. 


Day One: Wednesday, October 9th

Key stakeholders gathered in the boardroom of Artspace for a short, summary presentation from Dr. Shoup on his three main recommendations: charge the right price for on-street parking, eliminate parking minimums, and put the money raised from parking towards improvements on the metered streets. 

The group then boarded the Winnipeg Trolley for a two-hour tour through the Exchange District, The Forks, St. Boniface, Waverly West, Kenaston, Corydon and Downtown. On the tour, each delegate had the opportunity to ask Dr. Shoup a question. 

Key Highlights:

Exchange District:

  • Dr. Shoup noted, as we began our tour through the Exchange, that many streets had no cars parked, while other streets had one to two spaces available.
  • Recommendation: the price is too high on the empty streets, and the city should lower the price in the morning hours. Or, perhaps, only begin to charge for parking on those streets in the afternoon. 
  • John Giavedoni, a resident in the Exchange, noted how he watches cars circling almost every night when events are on. He sees the same cars circling the block on a quest for a free parking space. Dr. Shoup highlighted that in Winnipeg, free parking begins at 5:30 PM, which encourages citizens to go out to hunt for a parking space at 5 PM, during the height of rush-hour traffic. Often, employees of businesses in the area fill the free parking spaces at this peak time. And of course, if spaces are free in the evening, it should be expected that those going out for the evening would search for the free parking space.
  • Recommendation: charge for parking until a later time to avoid adding to rush hour traffic and to reduce demand for on-street parking. 

The Forks:

  • Rachelle Tiu spoke about how The Forks moved in stages from having ample free parking, to charging for parking in all lots in 2019. The Forks has clear signage at each pay station articulating that parking revenue is being invested in improvements to the site (similar to a Parking Benefit District). While some visitors expressed frustration with now having to pay for parking, their visitor numbers overall have not gone down, and have in fact risen. They are also investing in improved infrastructure for biking to their site. They want to encourage visitors to consider options beyond the car. 


  • Cllr Browaty asked questions around dynamic, or surge, pricing. He noted that downtown, on nights where there are big concerts or Jets games, the city should consider not just charging for on street parking, but raising the price to meet the demand.
  • Recommendation: Dr. Shoup noted that private parking lots already do this, and the city would be wise to price their parking according to market demands. 
  • Donna Olson, of the Winnipeg Parking Authority, noted the hurdle they are facing in dynamic pricing, is that the current meters do not support this technology. Currently, any time a change to the rates occur, they must bring in a technician to adjust the meters, which is cost-prohibitive.
  • Recommendation: Dr. Shoup noted many cities have moved completely to a web/app based payment system. This reduces the hard technology costs. To prepare citizens for the move, Dr. Shoup recommended offering discounts currently to parkers who pay via the app. This will encourage folks to try the new technology and prepare for future change. 

Waverly West:

  • Cllr Lukes noted the condos in Waverly West charge monthly for parking spaces (they are not bundled with the cost of the unit). The issue this has created is that residents will pay for the parking spot during the winter, but during the summer they choose to park on the surrounding residential streets. This creates conflict with homeowners on those streets, who then don’t have on street parking for visitors.
  • Recommendation: Dr. Shoup noted that “any neighbourhood without a permit process doesn’t have a parking problem.” If those parking in the neighbourhood had to have a permit, it would discourage folks from parking “for free” during warm months, as their cost for parking at their condo would then go towards purchasing a permit. Donna Olson, WPA representative, was able to speak to this in more detail, and how they can indeed make this work for suburban neighbourhoods. We hope to hear from Cllr. Lukes in the future should a permit program be implemented!

Other Highlights:

  • In an online payment system, the city can give discounts for smaller vehicles, electric vehicles, neighbourhood residents etc. The city can encourage citizens to move to more sustainable modes by offering discounts (as opposed to charging more, which leads to the belief that parking is a “cash grab”.) 
  • Studies of Winnipeg streets showed the city could be making $67,200 per week on streets where parking is currently free. By putting even half of this money back into those neighbourhoods, incredible improvements could be made to lighting, sidewalks, bus stops, bike infrastructure and more. If each neighbourhood could decide how they would like to spend the revenue, citizens are more likely to be on board with changes. 
  • Winnipeg has many surface parking lots that have been “grandfathered in” and the city has limited ways to work with the owners to inspire development. In Montreal, for example, they began charging $8,000 per year per space on its surface parking lots, which resulted in most of those lots being developed. Overcoming this hurdle is key to truly revitalize our downtown. 

Thank you to Dr. Shoup, the Winnipeg Trolley company and our participants: Cllr Janice Lukes, Cllr Jeff Browaty, Donna Olson (WPA), Bjorn Radstrom (Winnipeg Transit), Elise Finnegan (Wpg Planning, Property and Development), Rob Kstiuk (Wpg Planning, Property & Development), Michael Robinson (Wpg Planning, Property and Development), David Patman (Public Works), Chris Baker (Public Works), Colin Fast (Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce), Rachelle Tiu (The Forks), Philip Mikulec (Peg City Car Co-op), Kate Fenske (Downtown Winnipeg BIZ), Melanie Andrushko (Downtown Winnipeg BIZ), Tracey Umali (Downtown Winnipeg BIZ), David Pensato (Exchange District BIZ), John Giavedoni (Residents of the Exchange District).


PARKING AND THE CITY: Rethinking Parking to Transform Our Cities

Day 2: Thursday, October 10th

We welcomed over 130 guests to the Winnipeg Convention Centre for Parking And The City, Dr. Shoup’s keynote presentation. We extend our thanks to Peg City Car Co-op and the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce for their sponsorship to help make this event happen.   

We have Dr. Shoup’s full presentation recorded here. You can follow the presentation with Dr. Shoup’s slides, accessible here

Key Highlights:

Parking Requirements: 

  • Parking requirements may look scientific, but they are mere mysticism. They are “very dangerous nonsense” that cities should do away with. This doesn’t mean no parking will be built, it simply means the developer will decide how many parking spaces are necessary.  
  • City planners are not taught how to calculate parking requirements, they are simply in charge of enforcing parking requirements. Parking requirements are often copies of parking requirements in other cities. 
  • When it comes to parking, we have politicized what should be a business decision. 
  • Dr. Shoup pointed out how surprised he was by the amount of surface parking in downtown Winnipeg, and what a shame it was to see this blight. 
  • Parking lots create no jobs and pay almost no taxes. We need to think about what could go on these spaces, such as; housing, parks, etc. 

Parking Benefit Districts:

  • Parking Benefit Districts can offer many benefits for those in the neighbourhood that generate it. Cities have offered: free transit passes to those that work in the metered district (Colorado), free wifi, removing graffiti, steam cleaning sidewalks monthly, sweeping every night, better lighting, landscaping etc.
  • Old Pasedina went through a dramatic revitalization when a parking benefit district was created. They generated $80,000 per block each year. Initially, business was opposed to paid parking, but when the city offered to return all of the revenue to the neighbourhood, businesses were on board. 

Demand-Based Pricing: 

  • Properly priced parking is the “Goldilocks Principle”: Not too high, not too low. 
  • Charging the right price is better for business: parking spaces are well used, but one or two spaces are readily available near your shop. 
  • We watched a promotional video for changes SF Parking has implemented, based on Dr. Shoup’s research. Check it out here
  • It is important to note that, overall, the cost for parking went down through SF Parking reforms. It was not a cash grab. 

    Should these vehicles pay the same amount to park?

  • Enforcement for parking violations should be directed towards getting compliance, not profit. First offence gets a warning, second a small fine, a third offence, a larger fine etc. This reiterates that enforcement is not a cash grab. 
  • Vehicles cruising for parking can be a significant percentage of traffic (up to 70% during peak times), and these drivers can behave erratically in their quest to get a curb parking space. 
  • It’s important for cities to examine what the best use of curb space is. By reducing curb parking, cities find more space for: bus stops, loading, bike lanes, bike parking, patios, parks etc. 
  • How to make meter parking popular: give discounts for city residents, discounts for cleaner cars and discounts for shorter cars. 


  • No matter your political affiliation, whether you’re a business owner or a customer, a developer or a renter, you have much to gain by your city solving its parking problems. 

All of us, if we are reasonably comfortable, healthy and safe, owe immense debts to the past. There is no way, of course, to repay the past. We can only repay those debts by making gifts to the future.” Jane Jacobs

PARKING AND THE CITY: Breakout Sessions

“During the group discussions with a private sector planning consultant, I learned a bit more about parking management plans, whereby developers can submit to the City proposals for variances on the parking requirements for a given land use. Looking at the success of sites where these plans are in place could be a valuable tool in re-examining the existing off-street parking minimum standards.” — Participant feedback

Following Dr. Shoup’s presentation, guests were able to take part in two of three discussion groups. Each group was given a problem to solve or an issue to discuss, allowing participants to get to know each other better and to more closely analyze Dr. Shoup’s recommendations within the local context. Below are some notes taken from each group.  

Parking Benefit Districts: How Neighbourhoods Can Gain from Parking

Question: What could our cities gain from this revenue model? What would need to be considered to make it a success?

Discussion: The groups determined that parking benefit districts would be suitable for a number of streets and areas in Winnipeg, as long as businesses, customers, and residents were considered and consulted. When exploring the Corydon Avenue example, groups determined specific boundaries (Mulvey to Grosvenor, Nassau to Wilton) in which the revenues would be distributed, to keep in mind the parking that would be displaced onto residential streets. To account for this, the concept of ‘residential parking permits’ was discussed, to ensure parking was being paid for (to some degree) on every street within the boundaries. When determining how the money would be spent, it was presented that the BIZ, resident associations, and councillors could set those enhancement projects. Some possible projects included; accessibility improvements, street flowers, lights, programming, improved bus stops, cycle lanes, greenways, and additional maintenance. It was determined that this should be implemented as a pilot for approximately 3-years, beginning with Corydon and expanding to Osborne Village, West Broadway, Provencher, Transcona, Academy, and more. 

Parking Minimums vs Parking Maximums

Question: What are the fundamental differences between parking minimums and maximums? How can our cities change these requirements and what adaptations are necessary?

Discussion: The groups were in agreement that parking lots are commonly designed for maximum capacities, such as; a mall parking lot being designed to fit capacity for holiday and Black Friday shopping crowds. Instead, it was proposed that lots be built to satisfy the minimum capacity while investing in other modes of transportation. Many groups put forth the idea that malls have the potential to be transit hubs, with this rarely being capitalized on. Malls could reduce the demand for parking by providing safe bicycle parking, improved pedestrian walkability, additional green space, and development of a transit terminal. The group focused on a residential development determined that there should be no parking minimums, allowing the market and developers to decide the amount needed for that unique location. Parking minimums make it virtually impossible to build housing for low-income folks in areas within a walkable/busable distance to daily needs. Another key takeaway was that we need incentives in place for design to be done differently, by providing incentives to build dense, infill housing/commercial developments, we can get the greatest tax value of the available land.

Circling The Block: How Getting The Price Right Will Impact Traffic

Question: How can market-based pricing improve traffic, increase safety, and lower the stress level of drivers? What needs to be adjusted for Winnipeg to adopt this parking pricing model?

Discussion: In Winnipeg, the current technology does not accommodate this type of demand-based pricing, and it would require significant capital investment by the city to make this possible. The groups compared different rate ranges between on-street and parkades, with which these price disparities are brought to light when there is increased demand for parking. Groups agreed that providing certain discounts, based on residence, vehicle size, and fuel-efficiency are essential in driver’s willingness to pay based on market demand. Although the market is able to determine the pricing, it is important to consider the threshold of what a community can afford and adjust accordingly. It was then proposed that a pilot program be developed in the theatre district with benefits and discounts being made available for persons with lower income and/or reduced mobility. 

Following the breakout sessions, participants enjoyed complimentary beverages and the opportunity to mix and mingle, while watching those attending the nearby Home Opener for the Winnipeg Jets scramble to secure the curb parking spaces at 5 PM.


Thank you to everyone who attended Parking And The City, we had representatives from:

Cllr, Janice Lukes, Cllr Jeffrey Browaty, Cllr Ross Eadie, Cllr Vivian Santos, AECOM Canada Ltd, Anderson Co, BDC, BentallGreenOak, Bike Winnipeg, Cambrian Credit Union, Canadian Footwear Ltd, City of Brandon, City of Winnipeg Dillon Consulting Ltd, Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, Exchange District BIZ, Green Action Centre, HTFC Planning & Design, Impark, Infotechnika, Longboat, Longboat (Indigo), Manitoba Infrastructure, Manitoba Restaurant and Food Service Association,  MORR Transportation Consulting Ltd, Nadi Design, Nepture Properties Inc, Peg City Car Co-op, PlaceMakers LLC, RBC Convention Centre, Remax Professionals, Stantec, Technology@work.ca, The Forks Renewal Corporation, University of Manitoba Parking, University of Manitoba Sustainability Office, University of Winnipeg, Urban Systems, Brandon Downtown Development, City of Kenora, City of Winkler, Town of Niverville, West Broadway BIZ, Winnipeg Airports Authority Inc, Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, Winnipeg Parking Authority, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Winnipeg Transit, WSP Canada Group Limited, YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) Winnipeg.

Please take a moment to review the following support documents from Dr. Shoup, as well as news articles about the event and a summary blog from Elmwood Guy on his blog, Dear Winnipeg

Media Coverage of the event:
WFP – Author hopes to reform how cities think about parking
CityNews – Local stakeholders look at maximizing parking downtown

Parking Reform Will Save The City – CityLab
The hidden cost of free parking – VOX Videos
Columbus Parking Benefit District – sample provided by Dr. Shoup
Author hopes to reform how cities think about parking – Winnipeg Free Press
Jurassic Park(ing) Policies – Dear Winnipeg Blog

Photos by Leif Norman.