Downtown parking plan panned, praised
A rate hike that would double the cost of on-street parking downtown didn’t seem to bother the 60 people who attended a city open house on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
But, for much of the crowd at Interior Savings Centre, switching out city’s parking meters for new, digital pay stations is a no-go — at least in the short term.
Speakers at the meeting, which also looked at a proposed reconfiguration for the First Avenue and Lansdowne Street intersection, expressed trepidation over the pay hubs.
Several reported bad experiences with existing kiosks at Royal Inland Hospital and in off-street lots.
Others worried the machines would be overtaken by better forms of technology in the next few years.
Many also criticized the city’s plan to pay for the machines, which is to borrow about $1.7 million and pay the loan back over 10 years using some of the revenue from the new, higher meter rate — $1 an hour, instead of the current 50 cents — and from increased fines for parking violations.
The new machines and heavier fines are expected to generate an extra $920,000 in revenue for the city each year, about $209,000 of which would go to paying off the debt.
Of the remaining cash, $359,000 would be set aside each year in a new parking solutions fund, which could be tapped to build new parking infrastructure.
“Why don’t we simply raise the rates and wait two years, and then we have $1 million and we wouldn’t need to borrow any money?” suggested Chris Ortner to some applause.
“I don’t think this plan is very prudent,” said Denis Walsh, a downtown business owner and former city councillor. “Why go into debt if you don’t want to? We’re in very tight fiscal times right now.”
However, the idea didn’t sit as well with other business owners in the city’s core.
Bill Sanesh Jr., owner of Bikini Bills, said he often hears from customers who want smart meters — which allow for credit-card payments and let businesses validate customers’ parking.
He said taxpayers don’t need to worry that the plan will hit their wallets.
“Our proposal is completely self-funding,” he said.
“I like when you’re concerned about the cost of the meters and the cost of repairs, but the reality is it isn’t going to cost the city.”
Gay Pooler, general manger of the Kamloops Central Business Association, which originally suggested the parking changes to the city, said that putting in a rate hike without replacing the old parking meters could create a backlash downtown.
“If you just raise the rates on the meters that we have there, then it’s a cash grab,” she said. “It’s not solving anything. If you raise the cost of something and give value for that money, people accept that.”
The KCBIA asked for the new pay stations and higher rate in part to encourage people who work downtown to park on off-street lots, rather than on-street.
Right now, parking on the street is cheaper, but takes up spots intended for customers.
Pooler said the new machines will also improve the “customer experience” for downtown shoppers.
City council will make a decision on the parking plans at its Tuesday, March 5 meeting.