An end to free parking

City planners want fewer cars in the downtown, and they're using both the carrot and the stick to make it happen.

City planners want fewer cars in the downtown, and they’re using both the carrot and the stick to make it happen.

“Not having as many cars in the downtown was the number one principal that came out of the parking demand study,” said Mike Skene, a consultant who helped write the city’s new parking management plan.

That plan was presented to council Monday, but it’s been in the works for a while.

“It’s been 14 years since the last parking plan and the downtown has changed,” said city planner Ben Campbell. “We felt it was time to take a look at this.”

The study predicted Whitehorse will need more than 600 additional parking spaces over the next 10 years to meet demand.

While there is no lack of parking yet, city planners want to make sure it stays that way.

They have heard a number of complaints from businesses and residents of downtown about people parking all day on the street.

They’ve identified downtown workers as the culprits, said Skene.

It’s a problem that’s been a long time in the making.

“We have a lot of developments that historically didn’t provide parking,” said planning manager Mike Gau.

Any new developments have to include parking, and planners have been talking with the major downtown employers in the hope of finding a solution.

Ultimately, the parking plan calls for eliminating all-day street parking completely and expanding the metered parking zone over the next decade.

It contained 36 recommendations in total.

The first two years of the project are expected to cost more than $100,000 in planning costs alone.

In addition, expanding the metered zone will cost $400,000 over the next 10 years.

With $1.14 million set aside in its parking fund, the city has more than enough money to pay for the project.

One of the recommendations is to open that fund so it can pay for some carrots as well – sustainable transportation infrastructure, like bike paths and mass transit.

The idea is to help people identify their options, said Skene.

But downtown worker Eric Schroff has few options other than driving because his neighbourhood isn’t serviced by transit.

“I’m in Wolf Creek, so I can’t use transit,” he said. “If I could use transit I would because I believe in it.”

Schroff appeared before council to express his opposition to the plan.

Citing the study’s own findings, that on-street parking was meeting demand, and that city lots are nowhere near full, Schroff questioned why these changes are needed.

“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” he said. “If sustainability equates to less use of cars, fix the transit system and then look at the parking issue.”

Despite Schroff’s objections council seemed receptive to the parking plan.

“I’d like to see something done sooner rather than later,” said Coun. Dave Austin.

The parking management plan will be back before council next week.

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