Officials mull Whitehorse airport’s parking woes

The dark truck is covered in rust and has a completely flat front passenger tire. Through the front window you can see someone's boxes, clothes and sleeping bag stuffed into the back seat.

The dark truck is covered in rust and has a completely flat front passenger tire.

Through the front window you can see someone’s boxes, clothes and sleeping bag stuffed into the back seat.

Elsewhere, a blue Ford pickup truck is parked with a trailer on the back. Strapped to the trailer is a large water tank.

It’s unquestionably an odd sight for someone preparing to fly out of town.

There are about 500 parking spots at the Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport.

The largest plane that flies out of the capital has 156 economy class seats.

But the airport parking lot is often full, leaving customers circling the lot before they can fly away.

A quick walk through the area uncovers expired licence plates from all over North America: Oklahoma plates expired in 2008; B.C. plates invalid as of 2012; Ontario plates dated September 2013.

And that’s when you can find plates at all.

An aging black BMW is one of many that’s had its plates taken completely off.

Allan Nixon, the assistant deputy minister of the transportation division, acknowledges there’s a problem, but says there’s a limit to what they can do right now to deal with abandoned vehicles.

His office is preparing some options for possible changes. That includes “some legislative changes possibly on how we can tow vehicles more quickly,” he said, and “possibly changes in the fee structure just to bring the parking fees in line in comparison with similar-sized airports across Canada.”

In January, airport officials did a sweep of the parking lot and found 50 vehicles with either expired plates or no plates at all.

By April, 18 of those vehicles were still there.

“People are driving around with expired plates. It’s not that they are coming and parking and the plates expire. That’s one of the misnomers,” Nixon said.

He acknowledges that a number of vehicles in the parking lot are old and full of belongings. But that’s not enough.

“There’s nothing in the Motor Vehicles Act that says you can’t have your belongings in your car. Yeah, there are vehicles with flat tires. Vehicles get flat tires, does that mean they’re abandoned? That’s the thing we struggle with, how do you define that?”

The 18 vehicles found in April are in the process of being towed, he said. It’s not as easy as calling up a tow truck and dragging the offending vehicle away. The process can take months, Nixon said.

“You have to first track down the owner, then get a registered letter to them and make contact,” he said.

“There’s privacy issues. We have to go through an official request with the motor vehicles branch, which, even though it’s part of our department, if we don’t we’re in trouble with the privacy commissioner.”

Even if a vehicle is finally determined to be abandoned, the issues don’t stop there, Nixon said. Now a towing company is stuck with the problem.

“After they get it, it’s got to sit in impound for a period while it goes through the process of ownership being transferred to them,” he said.

According to Nixon, statistics show more than 60 per cent of the vehicles in the parking lot are there less than an hour. About 20 to 25 per cent are there between one day and 14 days.

“Only one per cent of the vehicles are there longer than a month. So, there’s always vehicles there but it’s not always the same vehicles. They’re rotating through.”

Parking at the airport is only $1.50 a day. People could, in theory, park for most of the month for what it costs to take a cab from Riverdale.

But if the tread marks on the grass are any indicator, some people are not willing to pay even that.

“Absolutely. We’ve had people that drive through the gates. They just run over the gate,” Nixon said.

“We’ve had people drive down the sidewalk to get out of paying their $1.50. It’s ridiculous. It’s amazing what people will do.”

But strengthening the gates may not be the solution.

“If you make it totally impossible to get out, then that 0.01 per cent of the population that doesn’t want to pay is going to just drive through the gate and then we’ve got a $1,000 repair,” he said.

“So there’s a cost-benefit there that we have to consider.”

Still, he said his office needs to do something to make the parking lot available to more people.

“I think we want to look at all the options available and see which ones we think will provide the best solutions. It could end up, and probably will end up, being a combination of a few different things.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

Ken Anderson’s Sun and Moon model sculpture sits in the snow as he carves away at the real life sculpture behind Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre for the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival in Whitehorse on Feb. 21, 2018. Yukon Rendezvous weekend kicks off today with a series of outdoor, virtual and staged events. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Rendezvous snowpad, live music and fireworks this weekend

A round-up of events taking place for the 2021 Rendezvous weekend

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. The proposed Atlin Hydro Expansion project is moving closer to development with a number of milestones reached by the Tlingit Homeland Energy Limited Partnership and Yukon Energy over the last several months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Atlin hydro project progresses

Officials reflect on milestones reached

A woman walks through the greenhouse at the Na-Cho Nyk Dun First Nation Farm. (Facebook)
Na-Cho Nyak Dun farm wins Arctic Inspiration Prize

Funds could be used to open a new abattoir and commercial kitchen

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022