FOULDS: What ‘value’ did drivers get from new meters in 2011?
Only a perpetual issue like that of parking in downtown Kamloops could generate comments arguing a 100 per cent increase in fees equates good value to those paying — simply because of how they are paying.
Last week, city council did the expected and decided to double parkingrates downtown, to $1 an hour from 50 cents per hour.
Council also decided to replace the 850 parking meters in the downtown area with 90 digital pay stations, despite the fact a five-year, $1.7-million loan for the stations will see the city pay $60,000 in interest.
The digital pay stations will be tied to a vehicle’s licence-plate number, not to a specific parking spot, and have technology that will allow drivers to pay by cellphone and credit card, while also taking payment by coin.
The city will call for tenders, though it is virtually certain a company called Precise ParkLink will be the supplier.
Precise got the nod to replace pay stations in city-owned lots, with city staff flying to Ontario to view the machines.
Precise staff were also at a recent parking public-information session at the Tournament Capital Centre.
By a 7-2 majority (councillors Donovan Cavers and Marg Spina were opposed), council decided to proceed with the plan and, once the contract is awarded, the new pay stations and the new parking fee should be in effect by the fall.
The idea is to create more parking spots by eliminating designated marked stalls and to use some of the revenue to start a fund to be used for a future parkade.
Now, doubling parking rates to a buck an hour is not a big deal; in fact, most who attended recent meetings on the subject had no problem with the new rate, which remains dirt cheap compared to Lower Mainland fees.
However, by justifying the new rate by pointing to the new pay stations as drivers getting value for their money is ridiculous.
In opposing a suggestion to raise meter rates now and pay for the new pay stations once the $1.7 million is raised — rather than take out a loan and pay $60,000 in interest — Coun. Coun. Tina Lange cited value to drivers at last week’s council meeting.
“People need to get some value out of that increase in rates,” she said, arguing the new stations offer that value.
A similar sentiment was echoed at a Feb. 26 public-information meeting, when Gay Pooler, general manger of the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association (KCBIA) said introducing 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 at the time.
“It’s not solving anything.
“If you raise the cost of something and give value for that money, people accept that.”
It remains to be seen whether customers downtown view doubling of parking fees as “value” simply because they can pay by credit card or by phone.
In either case, more money is being taken out of their wallets for a service (a parking spot) that has not changed.
However, if city council and the KCBIA are so staunchly opposed to simply raising parking rates for the sake of raising parking rates, it must be a relatively new stance.
Remember back in February 2011?
That would have been when city council, of which Lange was a member, approved the installation of 43 parking meters in the 500-block of Third and Fourth avenues and Nicola and Battle streets, where there had previously been no meters.
The area had been subject to a two-hour parking maximum, but council cited congestion and the need for faster turnover of parking spots as the reason for installing the meters.
Rather than offer anything of “value” to drivers, council simply added meters to collect money where money was not collected before.
Back then, of course, there were no concerns of the meters being a “cash grab” uttered by city councillors or members of the KCBIA.
The meters were installed, adding about $30,000 to city coffers, despite the fact the city’s bylaws officers could have easily achieved the objective by simply doing the basic job of walking up and down the block with a chalk stick and enforcing the existing two-hour parking limit.
Then again, maybe this is all about money — parking-meter revenue in 2012 was $577,150, a $26,000 drop from revenue in 2011.
With the fee hike and new machines, watch those numbers rise.