Thursday, July 28, 2022

Interim Parking Strategy a bridge towards Master Transportation Plan

The issue of parking, particularly in the downtown core has become a keen topic for much discussion of late, a focus item from the Mayor's recent State of the City presentation of June and on Monday night a lengthy forty minute plus review from Council members.

The Mayor's introduction to the topic from the Lester Centre, one that followed up on many previous council sessions over the last few years and a topic that city staff has offered up a few options towards.

Monday night, the theme returned as part of Council's review of an Interim Parking program, something that will in effect get things started when it comes to addressing the parking issues of the downtown.

That while Council explores the larger transportation issues through their Master Transportation Plan currently hosting a public engagement process.

We outlined the eight major themes from the Interim project on Monday, the full report available from the City's Agenda package for the night.

Management Action 1: Removing minimum parking requirements from a parking specified area (PSA) downtown. 

 Management Action 2: Encourage Shared Parking Agreements between private businesses, or private businesses and the City to optimize existing parking. 

 Management Action 3: Seek opportunities to develop public parking lots in the City Core as needed to serve longer term users through land acquisition or conversion of municipally-owned lots. 

 Management Action 4: Maximize parking on 2nd and 7th Street to serve longer term users and free up street parking along 2nd and 3rd Ave. 

 Management Action 5: Reconfiguring 2nd and 3rd Avenues W to increase on-street parking. 

 Management Action 6: Increase enforcement actions. 

 Management Action 7: Implement an Interim Parking Wayfinding Strategy 

 Management Action 8: Work to Implement Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure

City Planner Myfawnny Pope stayed close the script of the report in her presentation which explored a number of the themes from the expansive document.

Among some of the highlights was a look at the status of the current management system and a fund that is in place towards downtown parking. With the pay in lieu one time payment program for public off street parking, which as Ms. Pope noted has some challenges:  

"Until recently the fee for pay in lieu has been far below the cost for equivalent stalls in a public parking lot."

Also noted from the report was the rather poor results when it comes to the payment of parking fines, with only twenty five percent of those ticketed paying their fines.

Two of the eight recommendations however seemed to dominate the councillors attention through the evening, a focus on the removal of minimum parking requirements for property owners in the downtown area and the reconfiguration of Second and Third Avenues to create more parking availability.

The areas where the current minimum parking requirements would
be lifted as part of the new Interim Parking Strategy 

The changes to the minimum parking requirements for the areas highlighted in red on the map above generated the largest volume of conversation.

"The first action removing minimum parking requirements downtown, you pointed out in the report that there's a history of how we've managed these things in the past and one of the places in that history that we've heard quite a bit about was  the parking in lieu requirements and the changing of fees ... there are people way back in the dawn of time paid what I think would have seemed like a significant fee and some of those people still run their business in those place. 

So I can only imagine that  if I was one of those people and I saw that all of a sudden now  it was going to be free, I might have an opinion about that. So I think that we need to ensure that we recognize that there's going to be some people who look at that and say it's not fair, why did I have to pay when somebody new establishing a new business is not going to have to. 

So I would like to think that there is some thought being put into how to present that in a way that maybe puts people's minds at ease, or helps them move towards a place where they might think that they're at least their being acknowledged in the spirit of fairness "   -- Councillor Nick Adey

City Manager Rob Buchan addressed that theme of fairness and equity for Council.

"Anytime we change our regulations, we change the rules and somebody can always ask that question. Council actually made a whole bunch of changes to the zoning bylaw parking regs a little over a year ago and in some cases the standards were lowered significantly. So they could have asked the same questions at that time. 

And historically there have been a number of variance applications that have been granted to folks that have had applications because they couldn't or didn't want to provide all of the parking.

In Council's deliberations, it doesn't always mean that everybody is going to be subject to the same rules, rules can change if Council believes that it's in the public interest to do that.

So this is proposing a rule change with respect to recommendation number one on changing the parking requirements. There will be a public process for that, to do this, this has to be a change in the zoning bylaw, so people will have an opportunity to express their concerns if any to Council. -- City Manager Dr. Robert Buchan

The City Manager also outlined that scope of the issue facing the city is one that requires that there is sufficient parking and how to achieve that.

"There's a trade off here, in terms of providing private parking or making sure the city has sufficient parking. And part of the way that sufficient  parking is achieved is by public investment.

In reconfigurating roads, in acquiring additional lands for public lots.  

So, this represents a change in approach, a significant change in approach from the Council, saying you know, where we think it's in the public interest to,  for us to be providing the parking in these areas through these different mechanisms.

Does that mean that you go back to everybody that built parking lots, or parking in the past and say well you overbuilt  for our new standard, we're going to make up that for you, no that would be really unviable to do.

And  by extension cash in lieu is, that again is unviable there's no mechanism for returning money, you can't do assistance to business. It's a change in approach, a change to the rules going forward and we go through a due process for that. 

The equity thing is difficult when there's changes in rules the question is, is it in the public interest to do it" -- City Manager Buchan

Councillor Cunningham also had some thoughts on the changes to the minimum requirements, noting of his opposition during the Official Community Plan process.

"Less than a year ago we did the OCP and I strongly voted against it because of the Parking in lieu of 12 thousand and five and less than a year from now we're sitting  here saying we're going to do away with it and I know of one project that was shelved simply because of that 12 thousand  five hundred parking place" -- Councillor Barry Cunningham

The City Manager spoke to the councillors commentary related to the Parking in lieu issue.

"This is a challenging problem, and I recall Council during the revision of the zoning bylaw and doing the Official Community Plan talking about,  expressing concerns, about well some or our,  a lot of our properties in the downtown, they're completely build on, we can't put parking on. 

So are we going to enforce parking requirements on those buildings for a change in use, if they want to add onto the building or change the use which would result in a higher parking standard, that was identified as a problem by council ...

Council will recall that we discussed this solution at that time, which was greeted with some interest I would say generally by council as a way of solving that Parking standard problem. 

Now it's not just removing the parking standards, it's saying for these properties we're going to remove and the city is going to invest in alternative parking locations. Through street reconfiguration and through acquiring property so that the city can provide on street parking that's an approach that has been done successfully in a lot of communities ... -- City Manager Dr. Robert Buchan

One of the recommendations on parking is to reconfigure
both Second (above) and Third Avenue for more parking

The other elements that generated some expansive discussion was the concept of shared parking which was suggested by Councillor Cunningham as not a workable option, as well as the road reconfiguration plans.

The road plan changes which would reduce the travel lanes to allow for the angle parking, brought out a few observations, one from Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa who noted of some safety issues, particularly for emergency responders travelling on Second Avenue in particular. 

Councillor Wade Niesh offers up his own suggestions towards improving on the Parking options for Second and Third Avenues.

Councillor Cunningham also noted of some design flaws as he sees the proposal, offering up a view as towards an option to consider. 

The conversation was brought to a close with a reminder from Councillor Skelton-Morven that the term Interim was key for council to consider towards the motion.

The City Manager had noted that theme previously, observing as to how the Interim Parking plan feeds into the Transportation Master Plan which offers up the opportunity for fine tuning and vetting and process towards the larger approach towards Transpiration issues in the community. 

With that Council voted to move forward with the Interim Parking Strategy.

The full presentation and Councillor overview of the plan can be explored through the City's Video Archive page, starting at the 46 minute mark.

A larger overview of the Talking points for the Parking program from Monday night can be reviewed through our Council Timeline Feature.

The city has provided for an information sheet on the themes of the Interim plan which you can review here.

You can review some of the city's work to date on the Master Transportation Plan through their Rupert Talks portal.  

More notes on past Council Discussion themes can be found as part of our Council Discussion archive.

1 comment:

  1. There should be extensive consultation prior to changing to diagonal parking on Second and Third Ave.
    This proposal is full of drawbacks.