City pours more money into parking studies

The city wants to review Whitehorse's parking situation yet again. At a capital budget meeting last week, Mayor Bev Buckway announced the city wants to spend $125,000 on a downtown parking study in 2010.

The city wants to review Whitehorse’s parking situation yet again.

At a capital budget meeting last week, Mayor Bev Buckway announced the city wants to spend $125,000 on a downtown parking study in 2010.

It will be the third parking study the city has undertaken since 2004.

But this study will be different, say officials.

The study will look at actual demand for downtown parking, the adequacy of current zoning bylaw requirements and the possibility of a park-and-ride system, said Buckway in her capital budget address.

“One of the real problems with the parking studies in the past is that they’ve had a specific orientation,” said councillor Doug Graham, an outspoken critic of the downtown parking situation.

A 2004 study, commissioned by the engineering department, examined parking management in the city. A study in 2008 explored the feasibility of a downtown parkade.

“I hate to see us spend that kind of money on another parking study, but, by the same token, it has to be done right,” said Graham.

“We have to get some actual results that we can do something with in the future, not just pie-in-the-sky stuff like many of the studies have been.”

The city needs to look at employees who come from outside the city and park their cars downtown for free all day, he said.

The city needs to consider putting meters in areas of the city were there aren’t any, he added.

Along Main Street, businesses have told Graham they want higher cost meters and a more continuous rotation of parking.

But not all businesses are happy with the idea of the city spending more money on another study.

“I think $125,000 is an exorbitant amount just for a parking study,” said Art Webster who owns the North End Gallery on First Avenue.

“I’m hoping it’s broader in scope than just focusing on policy.”

Although past city studies have pegged a parkade at about $6.5 million, Webster still believes the city would benefit from a parkade.

And if the city could move people from places like the Canada Games Centre better, more people would be encouraged to leave their vehicle at home, he said.

“If they to speak to just six individuals and organizations – which is not a lot – they’d find all the problems in town perceived with parking.”

The issue of parking came up at the city’s most recent economic development charette.

There, business owners talked about urging the city to “action something and address the situation sooner,” said Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce president Muriel Chalifoux.

“When you look around downtown there is a shortage of parking spaces to support retail,” she said.

“When you add on tourism traffic, it’s a challenge for shoppers to find parking.”

The 2008 parkade study found there wasn’t necessarily a parking shortage, but a problem with how spaces are currently being used.

Nevertheless, city planners have said the situation has gotten worse in the last couple years as a result of the city’s growth.

The 2010 study, if approved in January when council votes on the capital budget, will be “more comprehensive,” said city planning manager Mike Gau.

Transit and active transportation are some of the issues that will also be looked at in the study.

“We don’t want to open up surface parking lots, we want to look at all aspects of what we’re doing,” said Gau.

The specifics of the study still haven’t been drafted, but if the budget is passed it will probably happen in late winter or spring.

Contact Vivian Belik at