Parking Expansion at Health Science North Best Value for Dollar

September 25, 2014 - Recently, Greater Sudbury councillors approved the purchase of land from the neighbouring Idylwylde Golf Course in order to add nearly one thousand parking spaces at Health Science North (HSN). The need for additional parking was driven by patient and visitor complaints that parking was too far away from the hospital, as well as removing the need for shuttle buses for employees and staff who currently park off site at the former St. Joseph Health Centre, (One could question the need for a shuttle when Sudbury Transit’s University via Paris bus already provides the same service).

There were two design options considered; expansion of the current surface lot or construction of a new multi-level parking structure. After feedback from Health Science North staff and nearby residents, HSH officials decided to go forward with the expansion of the current surface lot. A HSN spokesman stated that this option will provide the “best value for the dollar”.[1] Reason being, a structured parking lot is extremely expensive, not only to construct but also to maintain. As a result, decision makers such as those at HSN continue to favor large scale surface parking. But does a surface lot really offer the “best value for the dollar”?

Much of the expansions will occur in the lots closer to the main entrance such as the current metered lot. It is difficult to believe how the expansion of the current surface lot will result in patients, visitors and staff having the ability to park closer. A typical parking space is about 13 to 19 square metres [2], and when considering 2,455 parking spaces, the resulting area is approximately the size 4.5 Canadian Football fields. Other factors or costs such as age of the population, the harsh Northern winter climate and how aesthetics can influence the hospital experience should be included in the decision-making process.

There are alternatives to a surface parking lot. The Canadian Urban Institute suggested parking strategies to create dense mixed-use development. These strategies are challenging to implement and require a partnership between numerous actors such as the city, HSN staff, residents and the private sector. Northern Ontario`s strong ‘car culture’ makes individuals reluctant to move away from their private vehicle or incur any type of parking fees. Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, one of Canada’s largest single site hospitals, is surrounded by greenspace while allowing visitors and patients to park near the hospital entrance. There is potential to create such an innovated health centre in Northern Ontario with plenty of greenspace and available parking. However, the decision to expand the surface parking lot will result in an archaic and unattractive landscape in a city that supposedly prides itself on its natural environment.

[1] MacDonald, D. (2014) HSN Parking Expansion Will Happen ‘As Soon As Possible’. Northern Life, August 12.

[2] Victoria Transport Policy Institute (2013) Transportation Cost and Benefit Analysis II – Parking Costs

Authored by Julien Bonin, researcher with Northern Policy Institute The content of Northern Policy Institute’s blog is for general information and use. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Northern Policy Institute, its Board of Directors or its supporters. The authors take full responsibility for the accuracy and completeness of their respective blog posts. Northern Policy Institute will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information, nor will Northern Policy Institute be liable for any detriment caused from the display or use of this information.  Any links to other websites do not imply endorsement, nor is Northern Policy Institute responsible for the content of the linked websites.

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