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Parking and traffic changes, part 2: Nelson will add 35 new on-street parking spaces downtown

Bill Metcalfe
By Bill Metcalfe
August 29th, 2014

In a previous story in The Nelson Daily we described some of the changes to traffic patterns that will affect Cedar Street, High Street, and the east end of Baker Street in response to the upcoming changes to traffic flow on Hall Street. 

In addition, the city plans to add up to 35 additional on-street parking spaces downtown.

On the 100 block Baker and the 300 and 400 block Victoria, parallel parking will be changed to angle parking creating the additional parking spaces.  Also some parking spaces will have their time limits increased to four hours.

These initiatives were recommended in a parking study commissioned last year by the city as part of the Hall Street upgrade project. 

Not everyone agrees with adding parking spaces downtown, least of all local environmental consultant Michael Jessen, who points out that according to ICBC and Statistics Canada, there are more cars (11,080 in 2013) than people in Nelson.

“We already have too many vehicles in Nelson and more parking only encourages more to come. Remember: build it and they will come,” he says.

“We have no coherent strategy for quickly getting city residents out of their cars. More parking is perpetuating and growing an already severe problem. And I haven’t even mentioned the air quality in the city due to all these cars.

“The City of Nelson advertises itself on its website as ‘a city where life is unhurried,’ says Jessen. “I defy anyone to stand at the corner of Ward and Victoria at almost any hour during daylight and say this is a city where no one hurries.

“Sidewalk cafes on a street where cars are allowed? Do you see that in Europe? Nope, they learned and restricted the cars.

“Look at cities like Copenhagen in Denmark where people ride their bicycles to work.  Okay, not as hilly as Nelson, but the city is not doing enough to encourage alternatives to motor vehicles.”

Jessen says the city could start by giving free parking to owners of electric cars and to cars belonging to the Kootenay Carshare Co-op.

The Nelson Daily asked Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson, Mayor John Dooley, city councillor Paula Kiss, and Ecosociety executive director David Reid about the apparent contradiction between increasing parking and decreasing greenhouse gases. Here are their responses.

Mayor John Dooley

“I think up to 50 new spaces will ease pressure on the fringe residential areas as well as accommodate the growth we are seeing in our area. Growth means more traffic. To answer your question about greenhouse gas reduction, we would like people to use transit or walk where possible.  On that note we have made a number of changes to streamline the transit system in Nelson and integrated it into a regional system. We have created an active transportation plan, and encourage people to use our walking corridors identified in the plan. No question it is a tough one to square, but in the end it is personal choice when we travel how will we do it with as little impact as possible.” 

David Reid

Reid said the Ecosociety does not have an official position on this but, “I would like to see Nelson put more resources into public transportation and the Active Transportation Plan. Our future depends on us making cars unnecessary in our urban centres. Innovation and creativity will do more to address traffic congestion, support local business, and generate tourism than parking spaces ever can.” 

Tom Thomson

“The Chamber believes adding more longer term parking options on the periphery of the downtown is positive for visitation and for regional commerce. Many people from around the region use Nelson as a shopping, dining, and entertainment destination. I don’t believe increasing the number of stalls downtown is designed to encourage locals to use their vehicles any more than they currently are. It has been a very good summer for tourism I think it is really encouraging that visitors continue to make Nelson a place to visit and to support our local accommodators, restaurants, shops, and services.”

Councillor Paula Kiss

“The guarantee of increased parking made this project (the Hall Street upgrade) more palatable to council members and to the many citizens who believe that cars and parking is a requirement for economic success. Michael Jessen, other critics, the consultants, and certainly some council and staff are aware of mounting evidence to the contrary.  We have opposing views about what makes a viable community and so we get an active transportation and business improvement project that includes increased parking.  To all those who appreciate the irony of this, it’s really great to hear from you!” 


Bill Metcalfe is a freelance journalist who covers Nelson city hall for The Nelson Daily. To receive a regular twice-monthly email with links to his most recent city hall stories, send a request notification to

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