Spaces, spaces everywhere and no place to park

A multistorey car parkade may be built to ease downtown Whitehorse’s “perceived parking crunch.

A multistorey car parkade may be built to ease downtown Whitehorse’s “perceived parking crunch.”

This good news comes in the wake of a city commissioned feasibility study that asserts there is no parking crunch.

There’s actually a surplus of 1,135 downtown parking stalls when taking into account parking bylaws, said the 44-page study, which came before city council on Tuesday night.

By comparison, Yellowknife has a parking surplus of 506 stalls, Juneau of 559 and Prince George 1,804.

Parking bylaws specify the number of stalls that must exist as a result of certain businesses.

For instance, a restaurant or bar must have one stall for every five seats.

A motel must have one stall for every three rooms.

A two- to six-block walk is often all that separates vehicle owners from available parking.

“A walk made seemingly longer during periods of inclement and arduous winter weather,” said the study.

Waiting times for spaces to come available in municipal parking lots can sometimes be as long as three years.

The study identified other concerns.

“It’s not very sustainable to encourage vehicle traffic, and the cost benefit is definitely not there,” said Robert Fendrick, director of the city’s administrative services division.

However, the parkade may be necessary in maintaining the downtown area and steering shoppers away from the city’s parking-lot-saturated “big-box” district.

If built, the facility would offer parking for downtown workers, thus freeing up metered parking for shoppers.

The study offered some potential “sustainable” design ideas for a future parkade.

“How do you make a parking facility sustainable? It’s quite challenging,” said study consultant Jack Kobayashi.

“One way is that while you improve vehicular access to the downtown area, you improve transit as well,” he said.

One potential design could see the parking structure incorporating a new transit hub, such as a combination parking garage and transit facility being planned for Juneau, Alaska.

Or, the facility could be located outside the downtown core with a regular shuttle connecting commuters with their workplaces, said city planners.

The facility could also be combined with greenery and first-floor retail to alleviate the typical “concrete behemoth” look of parking garages.

Downtown businesses regularly hear of the desperate need to alleviate the parking shortage.

“Over the past few years, we have gradually been losing parking downtown … and the city is not interested in making parking available unless it can make some money off metered parking,” said Art Webster, owner of North End Gallery.

“I definitely think shoppers are avoiding downtown because of the parking situation,” he said.

The Yukon Conservation Society acknowledged a parking problem.

A parkade would be instrumental in preserving downtown businesses, said a conservation society representative.

However, the society also wishes to see increased municipal focus on public transit.

Initial estimates peg the cost of a 120-car parking facility at $10,500,000.

The study estimates the facility could be paid off over 20 years by revenue from parking and retail rentals.

An overall economic study of the parkade will proceed if council approval is received at Monday’s meeting.

In 1999, a comprehensive proposal for a downtown parkade was rejected by council for economic reasons.