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Update: chamber opposes nearly 40 per cent parking rate hike on meters, but bylaw passes

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
February 4th, 2024

Despite chamber of commerce objections and an increase well above inflation the City will be implementing its new hourly meter parking rates in the downtown.

Approval was given by City council on Feb. 6 to a bylaw amendment to increase parking rates by 37.5 per cent to help bolster an already $1 million revenue generator.

The move to increase hourly rates from $1.25 to $2 per hour was passed with only one objection — Coun. Jesse Peneiro — but it met significant objection from the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Chamber executive director Tom Thomson said the board felt parking rate increases should not exceed inflationary price increases, well below the 37.5 per cent amount council approved.

“We believe there is a sweet spot to maximizing revenues and ultimately keeping consumers out of the downtown shopping, dining and entertainment district,” he said. “One alternative to hourly parking rate increases is to maintain or moderately increase current rates but increase parking fines for violations.”

The increase, however, was supported by the City of Nelson Downtown Parking Strategy (2021), which encouraged the City to charge the “right prices” (market rates) for on-street parking to maintain an 85 per cent occupancy rate.

“The goal is to ensure that there are always at least a few vacant spaces on any block, so that anyone who comes by (and is willing to pay) can park if they so want,” the strategy stated. “(So) parking should be priced at a rate that generally ensures that 85 per cent of stalls are occupied and 15 per cent are vacant.”

Early payment parking fines will be doubling to $20 (if paid within 14 days).

It is expected that the rate rise on the meters will add up to $400,000 to the $1 million the City already collects from meter usage per year.

“Increasing rates will encourage vehicle turnover and make more spaces available for those who need them,” said City deputy chief financial officer Aimee Mooney. “It will also help offset costs of a mobile parking solution that will be implemented in 2024, and to allow for more funding for the capital reserves that support the City’s transportation infrastructure.”

Designated commuter parking spaces will remain at $5 per day to encourage use of commuter parking areas outside of the downtown core.

The parking revenue goes directly to fund improvements to all transportation infrastructure including roads, bike lanes and sidewalks, Mooney explained.

“This means it is not just city residents that fund these costs, but everyone who benefits from our transportation network,” she said in her report.

Parking “challenges” 

According to City staff, Nelson is facing the following challenges including:

  • increase in capital infrastructure costs — according to Statistics Canada, non-residential construction costs have increased 42 per cent since the beginning of 2017;
  • a need for more transportation infrastructure;
  • limited bylaw enforcement resources — a 2021 parking strategy identified the need for additional resources within the department;
  • limited downtown parking; and
  • noncompliant parkers.

Source: City of Nelson Jan. 9 agenda

Ending the end around

At the current hourly rate of $1.25, paying for eight hours of parking is the same cost as the early payment price of an expired meter ticket.

Although it is possible to receive multiple tickets per day, this encourages some drivers to risk getting a ticket rather than paying for a day of parking, said Mooney in her report.

Seven years ago the City of Nelson increased parking meter fees from $1 per hour to $1.25 per hour.

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