Solution to parking shortage is easy

Monday, March 12th, 2018

Cutting clearance from five to 2.5 metres would create more spots and not affect fire safety

Susan Lazaruk
The Province

Metro Vancouver’s engineers and fire chiefs are offering a partial solution to the parking shortage that’s particularly affecting Surrey and Coquitlam, where increased densification in some neighbourhoods means not enough room for all the extra cars.

They say the answer to creating several hundred additional, on-street parking spots is hiding in plain sight : By cutting the no-parking clearance around hydrants in half, there would be room for more cars on streets.

The city engineers, through the Regional Engineers Advisory Committee, are proposing the province change the Motor Vehicle Act to reduce clearance around hydrants to a minimum of 2.5 metres on either side from the five metres required now.

The change would increase the number of parking spots in some neighbourhoods by 20 per cent, said Fraser Smith, the general manager of engineering for Surrey.

He said Surrey estimated it could create 18-20 additional, on-street parking spots by reducing no-parking zones around the 100 hydrants in the Clayton Heights neighbourhood alone.

That neighbourhood has an increasing number of secondary suites, in addition to coach houses, besides primary residences, meaning three households can live on one lot.

Ideally, residential areas would have improved transit and provide residents with more work-live

communities, but, in the meantime, more room for cars is welcome, said Smith.

“It’s a small impact, but overall it could free up a lot of parking spaces,” he said.

There are between 8,500 and 9,000 hydrants in Surrey. Halving the setback from one, mid-block hydrant would free up five metres. One on-street parking spot requires six metres of space.

The move is supported by B.C.’s fire chiefs, who last year passed a resolution supporting the change, said Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis.

“The resolution (at a fire-chiefs association convention) was passed unanimously,” said Garis. “I couldn’t find a reason for (setting the clearance at) five metres,” he said. “We did our own testing and we discovered we don’t need the five metres.”

The proposed change was born out of a simple question that Smith put to Garis: Why is the no-parking zone around hydrants set at five metres for a mid-block hydrant?

Garis found the limit recommended by the National Fire Protection Association — an international body that develops fire standards

— was 1.5 m on each side of a hydrant with water outlets measuring 6.5 centimetres or more.

He also discovered that across North America clearances range from three to five metres, and that B.C. was at the top end of the scale across Canada.

The Surrey fire department conducted its own tests to determine the minimum distance needed by fire trucks and crews to use hydrants during a fire without damaging parked cars.

The tests determined that a minimum of two metres would provide

firefighters with the room they needed to access the hydrant and the results were published in the Reduction of Parking Restrictions around Fire Hydrants: An Examination of Parking Distances and Setback Regulations.

The report, written by Garis, Surrey Assistant Fire Chief John Lehmann and Alex Tyakoff, the strategic planning analyst for the Surrey fire department, was published by the school of criminology and criminal justice at the University of the Fraser Valley, where Garis is an adjunct professor.

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