Finding and paying for parking in Whitehorse’s downtown core can be challenging, but adding more of it is not the solution, according to the city’s director of development services, Mike Gau.
“The solution is really about managing parking, not providing more parking spots,” he said at city council’s July 4 meeting.
This was in response to Coun. Ted Laking’s question about what the city is doing to encourage the development of more parking in the downtown area, which he said is becoming a “growing irritant” for many people and referred to a complaint council received on May 10 from a small business owner in downtown Whitehorse.
“Lack of parking was having an impact on their staff,” Laking said.
“They were having to go out and feed the meters or were essentially having their wages hit on a daily basis because they were busy serving and received tickets.”
Laking said “a number of unique ideas” related to the parking lot on Steele Street were proposed in the letter from the small business, to which Gau said council was looking at three sets of recommendations in the short term for its parking management plan.
The plan’s vision is to “result in more efficient use of parking resources and reduced parking demand while enhancing the livability and vitality of the downtown core at present and into the future.”
Specific objectives include: supporting downtown business, promoting environmental sustainability, improving access to the downtown, facilitating active transportation and creating a pedestrian-oriented downtown.
Gau said several of the action items, which address the plan’s vision and objectives, refer to the adjusting or reviewing of parking fees.
“The major initiative of the short term is well under way from our bylaw services department and that’s regarding our kiosk system and the ability to pay for your parking through your phone, so you don’t have to leave the restaurant in the middle of your meal or shift.”
He said the city will review the fee schedule and kiosk idea so coins are no longer the only payment option for downtown workers. This prompted an overflow of parking questions and concerns pertaining to the city as a whole. Coun. Mellisa Murrary brought up the issue of accessibility for seniors and people living with disabilities as well as available funding for businesses to request bike racks in public spaces.
Coun. Dan Boyd redirected the meeting back to its original focal point, which was to review public parking availability in the downtown core and inquire whether administration had looked at some of the suggestions in the May 10 letter.
“I think this has exploded into a full policy parking economic strategy discussion,” he said, “so I’d like to go right back to the beginning and just ask if you are comfortable with what you said you would follow up on so far.”
He added he was concerned they were turning Laking’s question into a “small monster.”
For now, the city will only look at ways to improve its parking management plan downtown so the small business community does not have to pay more than its fair share. Other parking problems will be addressed and discussed in greater detail further down the road, council agreed.
“I don’t think we should encourage feeding meters because I don’t think that’s quite lawful,” said Boyd, in closing. “There is limited two-hour parking for a reason. If you’re feeding the meters, you could be getting a ticket anyway for staying longer than two hours.”
Contact Magan Carty at firstname.lastname@example.org