Everyone enjoys going shopping for one reason or another: getting away from an annoying boyfriend or girlfriend for a while, or just getting out and seeing something different. Bumming around the mall and browsing through thousands of items that make us laugh at their ridiculousness or shock us because of the fact that they are horrendously over-priced – a shopping adventure can be a great way to relax.
“Can be” should be the two key words here, because shopping in downtown Regina is anything but relaxing. What makes the downtown core such a stressful nightmare is that it is basically a jungle. The one-way streets are not even the worst of the problem because you can get used to those very quickly. What makes it so stressful is that many pedestrians do not respect motorists and many motorists do not respect pedestrians.
When I am driving downtown, trying to find where I need to go and where I can find a parking space, too often pedestrians come out of nowhere. They appear to have no regard for the fact that the several thousand pounds of steel under my control can seriously injure them. The rules of the road apply to pedestrians as well. On the flip side of the coin, too many motorists seem unable to understand that when a crosswalk light turns green and I, as a pedestrian, wish to cross the road, those turning right have to yield to me. I cannot really recount how many times motorists have expressed their annoyance at me for simply engaging in the correct behaviour. I like to think that the drivers’ apparent anger has more to do with the fact that they just experienced a moment of fear. Swearing at me is their way of coping with the situation. After all, it is quite scary to have almost struck someone with your car.
Yet the number one stress factor of downtown has to be metered parking. Those little posts that consume your hard-earned change are the greatest annoyance when trying to find a parking space. Combined with those nice folks from parking enforcement who write you those hefty tickets, parking is the greatest reason I try to avoid downtown. It’s actually sad, because downtown has some unique shopping experiences. Many of the stores downtown carry items that you will never find at Wal-Mart, Zellers, or any other department store. I would like to point to Vintage Vinyl & Hemp Emporium as an excellent example. Last time I checked, Wal-Mart did not have an aisle that sold items for your hemp needs.
Even if you don’t go downtown for unique items, the shopping atmosphere in itself is very different. Anyone who has entered the new Wal-Mart knows that it is just a large warehouse-turned-store. There’s no character to the building, nothing that would make me enjoy the shopping experience. The one advantage of big box stores is that there is plenty of parking and it is all free. How can downtown compete with that? We all know the answer: it cannot. So why will the City of Regina not get rid of metered parking in the downtown core? The simple answer is that metered parking is a cash cow for the city. First you pay to park downtown by plugging the meter and then Parking Enforcement preys on you and the bad luck that your shopping took five minutes longer than was allotted on your time at the meter. It is like getting slapped in the face twice in a day by the same person.
So where does that leave drivers to go? If you can, the Cornwall parkade is a great option and I have used it in the past to do shopping outside of the Cornwall Centre. If the parkade is not convenient for you or it is full to capacity on the day you need a parking space, a pocket full of change is your best bet. At the end of the day you are better off over-plugging the meter to avoid a parking ticket and swearing at City Hall while you are doing so. If you do happen to get a ticket, pay it promptly to avoid lining the pockets of City Hall even more. Then go ahead and vent your feelings by swearing at City Hall a second time that day. Hopefully that unique item was worth the trouble you just went through.