Warm winter having impacts on Kingston winter operations

Springer Market Square outdoor rink

Last Updated on February 26, 2024 by YGK News Staff

With unpredictable weather and temperature fluctuations being the norm this winter, some plans in the City of Kingston have been forced to adapt on the fly.

In general Canada has experienced an extremely warm winter, with many places in the country seeing a record number of days above freezing and low snowfall.

Kingston has had far less snow than normal and some residents have questioned if the winter parking rules should reflect that.

In a Facebook group that has been created in response to frustration around lack of parking spaces for a seemingly unneeded ban, one poster complained there’s not enough nearby parking to accommodate the number of cars in the face of a winter parking ban.

“I just do not understand why there can not be weather dependent parking bans. Especially in the areas of the city that existed before cars, where most people have no driveway,” the poster wrote.

During a hybrid ban, the city will send out notices before a weather event is expected that overnight street parking is not permitted.

Adam MacDonald, an operations manager with the City of Kingston Public Works, says even in months where a hybrid ban is in place there are complaints and confusion about when tickets are handed out and when they’re not.

He says last winter the blanket street parking ban was needed from January 1st all the way through to almost St. Patrick’s Day, and ultimately this extremely warm winter hasn’t given enough reason to alter the winter parking rules.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think you base it off one winter and that’s where this is kind of a more difficult discussion,” MacDonald said.

“Last year, if we look at 22 to 23, I don’t know that there’d be any days in January and February that we would have been able to fully remove the parking ban… to take what’s happened in January and February of 2024 and say this builds the case for a full hybrid parking ban, it’s probably not representative of an average winter in the city of Kingston.”

Some larger cities like Montreal will plow on a street by street basis, posting temporary signage before plowing so owners of parked cars have a chance to move before being ticketed and towed to a new location.

MacDonald says while that works for a larger city and leaves more parking options open, Kingston’s slow clearing response has to be a little more adaptable just solely based on resources available.

“For us it’s really dynamic where we go and the date and time, where I think some of the other, especially larger, municipalities have actual gridded schedules where they work in this part of town,” MacDonald said.

“We’re so dynamic in that area that it’s really tough to pinpoint the areas that you’re going to want to work in without the flexibility of being able to go to other spots.”

He said the issue is a broader discussion than just the winter parking ban, with an overall need for more downtown parking that is addressed by development.

While there’s been less volume of snow, MacDonald also says overall Public Works have responded to roughly the equivalent amount of weather events this winter thanks to there being more incidents of flash freezing, and plow trucks still need to fit through the streets on a semi-regular basis.

He added that while a lot of the tickets handed out are strictly from the winter parking ban, there’s quite a few who face infractions for parking in spaces where parking is prohibited year round.

The warm winter has also been particularly prohibitive on the Spring Market Square ice rink.

While no City organized events have had to be cancelled, the annual Historic Hockey Game was moved indoors a couple of weeks ago, and the rink hasn’t been usable for a much greater portion of winter.

Amy Elgersma, Manager of Recreation Facilities, said there has been much more closure of the rink than a typical winter.

“The weather conditions have caused the Springer Market Square Rink to be closed more often than expected at this time of year,” Elgersma said. 

“To date the rink has been closed eight times because of weather, including warm days and snowstorms.”

While some of the impacts on this warm winter are thanks to the climate phenomenon El Niño, but climate scientists say most of the rise can be attributed to humans.