Parking solutions for small towns



The town of Oswego, Kansas has an interesting way of providing extra parking in their downtown core area. There is angle parking on both sides, centre parallel parking and one lane of traffic going each direction. Oswego is slightly smaller than Minnedosa.

Ken Waddell

The Neepawa Banner

Discussions and even arguments about parking spots have been going on for decades. Rural people are infamous for wanting to park right in front of the store or restaurant they are headed for. Business owners are just as bad as they too like to park close to their daily destination.

Four times in the past year or so, the Town of Neepawa council has debated parking spots and parking by-laws, all the while not coming up with any realistic solutions. In Neepawa, as in all rural towns, the designated downtown area has some development rules and restrictions. The front half of any retail building is supposed to stay retail. However, the back half and the second floor can be residential and most towns have numerous buildings in that category, usually older ones. They have retail on the main floor and residential at the back or on the second floor. Neepawa has a bylaw that states that a building is supposed to have 1.5 on-site parking spots per residential suite. This rule is only enforced in the case of new construction, or if a building is being renovated to increase the density of housing within it. That means an older building that isn’t being “densified” can go on indefinitely with existing parking spots, or in many cases, no parking spots. However, when a decision is made to upgrade to more suites, to add suites to an existing building or to build a whole new building, the 1.5 on site parking spot rule kicks in. So far, no provision has been made for an owner buying or renting additional parking spots off site. It’s been offered to, but not accepted by, the Town of Neepawa council.

As the demand for housing increases in Neepawa and the demand for low income or affordable housing escalates, there’s increasing pressure to adjust the “1.5 on site” by-law. It’s likely long overdue. Perhaps it should be reduced to one spot per residence or allowance should be made for the  rental of off-site parking spots.

The picture shown here is of a small mid-western town, Oswego, Kansas. It shows an interesting parking solution. The same solution is also used in Morse, Saskatchewan and likely many other places as well.

It illustrates angle parking on both sides, a single lane of traffic in each direction and a row of cars parking down the centre of the street. It apparently works well. Reportedly, the business owners and staff use the centre strip a lot as their cars don’t have to move much during the day. The centre strip parking is a parallel parking situation accessed from either direction. It also pretty much eliminates the now notorious Neepawa left hand turns into a parking spot. Those left hand turns are usually illegal but happen probably a hundred times a day in downtown Neepawa.

The centre strip parking would allow for many more retail parking spots. They could be in effect only from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., so as not to cause night time problems or interfere with night time snow clearing. The idea is worth considering. Certainly in Neepawa, both Mountain Ave. and Hamilton St. are wide enough to make this possible and it would allow for probably 40 to 50 more parking spaces in the down town core.

Neepawa has a downtown parking problem and thank God that we do. Many towns would like to have the same problem. You want a downtown to be vibrant and busy enough that it’s tough to find parking. We have the space and all it would cost is some street paint and a few signs.