Chronicle Herald, Nov 4, Francis Campbell
The new parking plan for the Halifax Infirmary site is drawing criticism.
“It’s clearly the case that the hospital is not even thinking about what are the benefits of public open space, they are just going ahead and doing the easiest thing to accommodate a growing demand for cars in a time when we are supposed to be reducing our reliance on cars,” said Peggy Cameron, a member of the non-profit community group Friends of the Halifax Common.
Cameron questioned why the parkade announcement was made Thursday, the day after the legislature had completed its fall sitting and a day after government had passed environmental legislation that requires the province to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 53 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and for Nova Scotia to hit a net-zero carbon footprint by 2050.
The province’s announcement was a $29.5-million commitment to build a 900-space parkade on the current parking lot of the Museum of Natural History on Summer Street. The new parkade will replace the existing Robie Street parkade, which will be demolished to make room for a new inpatient centre with operating rooms and hospital beds.
A temporary parking lot will be built on a green space on the other side of the museum to accommodate museum parking while construction on the new parkade is in progress.
“Certainly, because it’s part of the Halifax Common, it should have come to the public as part of the consultation, which was ongoing for the past couple of years,” Cameron said.
Cameron said the municipality has walked away from its responsibility of planning for the entire Common.
“They are just working with the patchwork of things that remain owned by the city as opposed to (parcels) that they’ve given away.”
Cameron said about 20 per cent of the Halifax Common is already dedicated to parking. She said the green space that will be used for the temporary parking lot will be turned over to the hospital in the long term for additional parking.
“My bottom line would be that there should be no new parking lots or parking garages on the Halifax Common, end of story.”
She said the province, with new hospital construction, could simply dig deeper and provide underground parking instead of usurping green space.
Cameron said if Halifax Regional Municipality’s centre plan is to add 15,000 to 30,000 people in the next three decades and turning it into a walkable city, the municipality should be looking at light-rail transit or providing more parking outside the core and having free bus service running to the hospitals.
“It’s not the case that the majority of the people who are parking (at the hospitals) are patients or people going for medical appointments, the majority of the people are people who are working at the hospital and they have the same destination for 30 years of their careers. I am not criticizing those people because we’ve enabled it by providing the idea that we were a car-centric society. Now we understand that is nothing that we can afford in the future, either from maintaining the infrastructure or from the cost of greenhouse gas emissions.
“If we are looking at transitioning into a different kind of society, we need to be taking serious measures now and not building parkades that are going to be there for 30 years.”
The provincial funding announced Thursday will also go toward future Infirmary parking expansion and it is estimated that a total of about 2,700 spaces will eventually be available, 1,400 more spaces than exist today.