City considers doubling downtown parking rates
Time is ticking down on Kamloops' coin-operated parking meters.
At a special workshop on parking on Tuesday, Aug. 21, city council agreed to consider an overhaul of parking in the downtown core that would replace the current meters with digital pay stations and raise fees for the first time since 1994.
The move follows a report from the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association that called for a number of changes to improve the downtown parking situation for both customers and people working in the city centre.
Jon Wilson, the city's community safety and enforcement manager, told council the situation downtown doesn't encourage people to find off-street parking.
In most cities, lot parking is cheaper than the metered option but, because Kamloops hasn't raised its rates in almost two decades, it's about twice as expensive to park off-street — making it more attractive for downtown employees to take up metered spaces.
To solve that, city staff are proposing to double the meter fee to at least $1 an hour. On Victoria Street, which Wilson said is "probably the highest demand area in the downtown core," the hourly rate could go as high as $1.50.
It would also replace the 850 aging parking meters with 135 pay stations, where driver register their vehicle's licence-plate number and can pay for their parking time using a credit card. Another 10 stations could go into off-street lots.
Staff will also look at offering drivers the option of staying in a spot for a third hour, but the extra time would likely come at double the cost.
Wilson said the technology upgrade would cost the city about $2.2 million, plus another $320,000 in operating expenses.
However, he estimated the new system would bring in an extra $1.2 million in parking revenue each year, with the fee increase on Victoria Street alone netting nearly $200,000 for the city.
Under the plan, a portion of that cash would go into a new parking fund, which could pay for updated equipment, development of new parking facilities or even alternative modes of transportation.
Coun. Tina Lange worried a 100 per cent fee hike might be "too drastic," but said she likes the idea of the extra cash generated staying downtown.
“Metered parking was put into the downtown core not to make money. It's not meant to be a cash grab. It's meant to move people along. The reason we don't have meters on the North Shore is because there always seems to be parking over there,” she said.
However, Coun. Ken Christian said the rates hike isn't so major compared to the cost of parking in other cities around the province.
“I was in White Rock on Saturday night, about 8 p.m. on Saturday night, and I paid $3 to park downtown to go to the pier for dinner," he said. "That is the cost of doing business in White Rock. I don't see that having a lower rate in Kamloops is helping the problem.”
Coun. Marg Spina said it may also be time for the city to bring back a requirement for downtown developers to provide parking stalls when they build.
“What I've heard from developers is that if we don't require it, they won't build it," she said.
“We've got wonderful new apartment buildings and strata popping up in the downtown area and I think we need to address it now rather than later.”
Council also agreed to start an expression-of-interest process calling for new ideas to add parking stalls to the downtown. Submissions are open until Sept. 21.
The parking issue will likely come back to council for more binding decision-making in October.
WHAT THEY PAY TO PARK
Downtown Vancouver: $6 an hour
Victoria: $2.50 an hour
Kelowna: $2 an hour
Surrey: $1 an hour
Penticton: $1 an hour
Kamloops: 50 cents an hour
Vernon: 50 cents an hour
Nanaimo: 50 cents an hour
WHAT'S IN A LINE?
One of staff's easiest suggestions for adding more than 40 extra parking spaces in the downtown core is all about taking away.
Community safety and enforcement manager Jon Wilson told council removing the painted lines that demarcate parallel parking spaces on Victoria, Seymour and other downtown streets could add space for anywhere from 40 to 80 extra vehicles, depending on the size of the cars parked at any given time.
Coun. Nelly Dever worried about cars getting boxed in if that plan goes ahead, but Wilson said cars would still be required to park three feet apart, which is a requirement under the city traffic bylaw.