Parking problem growing
The city’s CAO says downtown Kamloops is “nearing a tipping point” after a decade of low business growth and high vacancy rates.
David Trawin made the comment at the close of the second of two parking forums held in the downtown core, organized by the Kamloops Voters Society on Oct. 25.
The dual events — the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association (KCBIA) held a forum on Oct. 24 — come as the city looks at making long- and short-term changes to parking downtown.
This past summer, the KCBIA pitched a raft of suggestions to city council that would include higher parking-meter rates, replacing existing meters with pay hubs that accept credit cards and offering three or four hours of parking for a premium price.
The changes would net more than $880,000 in extra revenue for the city, which the KCBIA wants to see used to establish a fund to pay for new parking structures or fund transportation alternatives for the downtown area.
The KCBIA outlined its plan of action to about 30 people who gathered at Caffe Motivo.
Speaking to a similar-sized crowd at the close of the Kamloops Voters Society’s panel discussion at Desert Gardens Community Centre, Trawin said the main issue isn’t availability of on-street spots for shoppers — it’s the lack of stalls for office workers.
Trawin said the city has lost more than 600 such spots to development since 1995 and faces tremendous pressure to let businesses that could fill more than 100,000 square feet of vacant space downtown set up shop in other areas of the city.
However, many at the meeting said they are concerned changes on the table will hurt the downtown, rather than help.
Several people believe new pay hubs will confuse seniors and the less technologically savvy, while some worry the high cost of parking — which could be about $1 an hour, compared to the current 50 cents — will lead to more people parking in nearby residential neighbourhoods, causing a space crunch in those areas.
Others said the proposed changes may drive people away from the downtown altogether.
Panelist Brian Windsor, owner of the Big Boot Inn and a member of the KCBIA’s parking-solutions group, thinks the convenience of the new models and the larger time limits they can offer will trump the cost.
Pay hubs can also be programmed to allow businesses to validate customers’ parking, Windsor said, which means those who do spend their dollars downtown could end up paying nothing at all for their on-street spaces.
Not everyone on the panel agreed.
Movie Mart owner and former city councillor Denis Walsh said the city should replace its signs to expand time limits on some streets and keep things low-tech.
“You’re going to get lineups possibly [at the pay stations],” he said.
“And, when it’s cold, people don’t want to walk seven stalls over.”
Walsh called on the city to start charging developers a fee if they don’t want to provide extra parking on their sites, a suggestion heard several times over the course of the night.
Trawin doesn’t think such a policy would hurt.
The city encourages developers to put in public parking by offering tax breaks, but none have taken up the offer.
Other suggestions from the public included running a park-and-ride service between either Thompson Rivers University or Valleyview to the downtown and offering day passes for parking downtown — though vehicles would still have to move to a new spot after a set number of hours.