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New commuter parking zone created by city to help solve parking problem

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
January 17th, 2018

With over half of the city’s workforce travelling in from outside city limits the parking situation in Nelson has become further entangled.

In order to help untangle that snarl the city has moved to create a slate of parking spaces dedicated strictly to the commuting community, with lower daily rates than it would cost at an average downtown parking space.

The intent is to install $5 commuter meters at currently unmetered parking stalls, with 21 commuter-rate stalls planned for the 300 block of Cedar Street.

“Without rates or time restrictions, well-located parking spaces may be taken up as long-term parking by tourists or even as vehicle storage, whereas they may be best suited to commuter parking,” said city planning and building analyst, Alex Thumm in his report to council.

If day-rate meters were installed where parking was currently unmetered but time-restricted, “the key benefit for commuters is a parking space where they may park for the entire day,” he wrote.

According to a city staff report many commuters currently rely on two-hour parking and must move their vehicle several times a day.

“Creating distinct, metered commuter parking zones may make it easier for commuters to find parking in less time than it currently takes if they know where these zones are,” said Thumm.

Commuter zones should also help reduce direct competition between downtown residents and commuters for parking, he added.

Thumm explained there were possible disadvantages for nearby residents who currently use unrestricted parking during business hours, while commuters who have used the parking for free would henceforth be charged $5 per day.

Drivers who wished to use commuter parking spaces for only an hour or two would also pay $5, unless someone had already paid to use the space earlier in the day, in which case the meter would not have run out.

“However, staff intends on limiting the use of commuter meters to areas outside the downtown core where parking spaces are known to be generally used by all-day commuters,” said Thumm in his report to council.

The commuter parking project required a new, daily parking meter rate. It was proposed that this rate be $5 per day, equal to the parkade’s daily parking rate. Meters with this rate would allow drivers to park from 9 a.m. (or earlier) until 5 p.m. (or later), Monday through Saturday, for a flat $5 daily rate, said Thumm.

Public Works has already installed meter posts for these 21 parking spaces, but no meters have been installed yet.

The city stands to benefit further from the move. The revenue generation potential is up to $100 per month, per meter, resulting in a revenue generation potential of up to $2,100 per month.

Enforcement of the zone will be simple: Since the rate covers the entire day, it is anticipated that bylaw enforcement officers may typically only need to visit commuter-rate meters once per day.

The commuter parking pilot project was presented to city council’s committee of the whole as part of the Draft Downtown Parking Strategy. The strategy proposed the introduction of commuter zones set at a lower rate than two-hour parking, where commuters can park for the entire day.

The parking strategy suggested a parking policy that supported a balanced transportation system, including commuter parking zones on the outskirts of the downtown where parking — two-hour or unrestricted — is currently unpriced.

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