A car sits parked at an expired meter on Main Street on July 16. City council is considering raising parking rates and fines in Whitehorse. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Council ponders parking plans

Plan looks at increased fees, fines and other changes

Parking rates and fines in Whitehorse could rise, but only if city council goes ahead with proposed downtown parking management plan recommendations.

And as city planner Ben Campbell confirmed at council’s July 15 meeting, if adopted the plan would be a guiding document. Individual recommendations such as fees and fines would be considered on their own merit down the road.

Campbell presented the plan, outlining 22 recommendations for the short-term (over the next four years), medium-term (over the next eight years) and long-term (beyond eight years).

Among the short-term recommendations parking rates could be adjusted to “market rates” in the downtown core.

Currently meter rates are set at 25 cents for 15 minutes and $1 for an hour with rates in the city’s two downtown parking lots set at $160 per month.

“Due to the continued demand in the Downtown core area, it may be necessary to adjust parking rates to match market demand,” the proposed 37-page plan states. “This adjustment is to reflect the actual parking demand within these areas and to support the City’s transit initiatives.”

Any changes in rates could be discussed with stakeholders first with extra revenues from the new pricing potentially going to the parking reserve fund.

The plan also touches on the impact increasing parking fees could have in encouraging more people to take the bus.

“It is recognized that the market rate adjustments alone may not be adequate to achieve transit ridership targets,” it stated. “For a market pricing strategy of 30 per cent greater than transit to be successful, it also requires the availability of transit routes to be viable alternatives to driving.”

Meanwhile, fines are also proposed to be increased “as a further deterrent to abuse within the system.”

Right now, fines for parking at an expired meter are $25, though they are reduced to $10 if paid within the next business day.

“The fines associated with parking violations could be increased to further discourage violations,” the plan states.

It details fines in a number of cities across the country. Of those listed Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan had the lowest at $30, or $10 if an early payment is made within three days. Calgary had the highest at $75 or $40 if paid within 10 days and $50 within 30 days.

At least one council member does not favour increasing fees or fines. Coun. Dan Boyd said Whitehorse rates are affordable compared to other regions and he took issue with pricing parking to be higher than transit, pointing out transit doesn’t always work for everyone.

Those living in most country residential neighbourhoods, for example, don’t have access to the transit system and have to drive a vehicle to get to and from downtown.

Campbell stressed the plan is a high level document, with specific decisions on things like fees and fines and the amounts to be charged coming back to council for an individual decision at a later date.

Another councillor raised questions on accessible parking spaces.

Coun. Laura Cabott suggested increased meter rates would not be an incentive to use transit for those with accessible parking permits and asked for the reason in not charging meter rates at accessible spots and allowing for more parking time in those spots.

In a July 16 interview, Campbell said both temporary and permanent accessible parking permits cost $25 in addition to meeting eligibility requirements.

“There is a fee associated with it,” he said, adding meter rates have not been in place at accessible spots for many years.

He also explained under the traffic bylaw, those with accessible parking permits are granted an additional hour over the regular time, recognizing it may take longer for those with accessibility issues to run errands or get back to a vehicle. So, for example, if someone with an accessible parking permit pulls into a two hour zone, they can be parked there for up to three hours.

Bylaw officers keep track of the time by chalking tires as they do in other zones and can issue tickets accordingly.

Under the short-term recommendation category is the possibility of upgrading metered parking to allow for cashless and app-based payments; purchasing handheld devices for parking enforcement; a pilot project to expand commuter parking options; modifying monthly passes for city parking lots to daily passes to encourage other travel options; looking at the city’s role in charging stations for electric vehicles; reviewing zoning requirements for parking; and incorporating other city plans into parking.

Cabott took issue with the focus on personal vehicles in the short-term, arguing promoting transit use and active transportation (efforts which are outlined in the medium to long-term) could have a greater impact in getting people out of their own vehicles in favour of more sustainable travel.

Winter maintenance of bike routes, looking at how reserve funds are used and the possibility of the city clearing sidewalks downtown in winter were all discussed.

Medium-term efforts would look at parking signage for the downtown; exploring a first-hour free program for those parking on roads parallel to Main Street due to the high demand for parking on Main; and permitting the use of the parking reserve fund for sustainable transportation initiatives as a way to reduce demand.

Finally, the long-term work would evaluate and promote shared vehicle parking; watch the progress of autonomous and connected vehicles as it may impact how city roadways and parking is used; and look at structured parking facilities in the the downtown periphery depending on demand in future years.

Council will vote whether to adopt the plan July 22.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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