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Update: logic behind raising parkade prices questioned by councillor

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

A rise in the hourly rate for parking at the City-owned parkade and eliminating monthly parking passes in order to increase the facility’s usage was questioned by one City councillor.

Jesse Peneiro asked the question — on the eve of the adoption of the amendment to the Fees and Charges (Parkade) Bylaw — about the rationale to increase the hourly rate at the four-storey concrete parkade from $1.50 to $2 per hour.

He wondered how the rise would encourage more drivers to opt for the tower over the street.

“My reasoning is we want people to actually use it; it’s not something people have been using; it’s not something people are used to using,” he said.

People in Nelson are much ingrained and used to driving around downtown until they find a spot next to where they are going, said Peneiro. It’s just different behaviour to go and park in the parkade and walk toward Baker Street, he added.

“I think that is what we want, as well as we want people who commute to park there all day as opposed to taking spots along the street,” Peneiro said during the July 2 City council regular business meeting.

If the point of the amendment was less driving around and reduced emissions, it should be made less desirable, he continued.

“I would say we can keep the parking rates where they were two weeks ago as an incentive to use it, and make sure that it’s full,” he said. “And then if that’s full it’s going to open a lot of spots on Baker Street, then people can pay the premium parking rates on Baker. We need to make sure we don’t have this parkade that is just sitting there half empty, again.”

City manager Kevin Cormack said the commuter rate for the parkade is half of what someone would pay on the street, $8 versus $16.

“I think we are confident at this stage that (the parkade) will be well utilized,” he told Peneiro. “That’s our primary market and that is what we are hoping to do. I think we should monitor it and if it is not working we can come back” and change it.

Cormack said the parkade was half a block off of Baker Street if someone parked in the parkade and exited out the back of the building.

“We are at adoption now so I think you should go ahead and see if we can make this work. I believe this is a good solution at this time. If it is not and we are not seeing that pickup at the time, we can always adjust,” Cormack stated.

The parkade and its fee structure are designed as a place for commuters to park, said City chief financial officer Chris Jury, and not necessarily as a place to park for a quick stop. He said the people who are losing their monthly parking pass are concerned the parkade will be full, not empty, after the rate rise.

“So, I think this is a good price point that kind of makes it fit with the overall parking, pricing scheme,” Jury said. “And if we are looking at it and seeing this is not being used then we will come and revisit that.”

With the increase of paving costs, inflation, technology changes, and need for more transportation infrastructure in Nelson, Jury said those factors warranted an increase to the hourly Parkade rate from $1.50 per hour to $2 hour to align with on-street parking.

The removal of the monthly parkade permits would maximize the City’s current parking assets and encourage use of commuter parking lots, Jury explained.

The remaining stalls would be available for daily use. Over the past year, Nelson City staff have performed spot checks and, although the monthly permits are fully subscribed, these stalls are roughly 50 per cent vacant on any given day of the week.

Notice of the parkade changes will be posted on the City website and City social media accounts and emailed to monthly permit holders.



Parking Strategy point

According to the rationale of the Downtown Parking Strategy:

Replace monthly permits with daily reservations: only pay for the days you need

It is common to see Nelson’s on-street parking at-capacity while off-street lots are at half-capacity or less.

A common complaint is that even though the parkade is fully subscribed, it often looks half-empty. Monthly permits do not make sense for part-time workers — according to the 2016 census, 65 per cent of Nelson-area workers work less than full-time around the year.

The space rented by a full-time worker is likely empty at least two days a week (and during vacation).

This survey found that only 47 per cent of commuters “always” drive to work. At least one-fifth of respondents work fewer than five days per week downtown. In this situation, monthly parking passes are not efficient (pass holders might walk to work two times out of five) or ideal from a multi-modal sustainability perspective (once parking is prepaid, there is no incentive not to drive from time to time).

Phasing out monthly permits, also recommended by Whitehorse’s downtown parking strategy, will ensure that parking spaces are occupied more of the time. It creates an incentive to only drive on days when one needs to (even if it is every day) by not having to pay for days that parking is not needed.

If reserved in advance, commuters benefit from the reassurance that they have a guaranteed parking spot on the days they need it; they do not need to waste time searching for parking. It would allow weekend and part-time workers to benefit from parking normally reserved for Monday-to-Friday commuters.

Source: City of Nelson Downtown Parking Strategy

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