Stolen city parking meters found in a wooded area by Coun. Jan Stick over the March 22 weekend. (Jan Stick/Submitted file) Stolen city parking meters found in a wooded area by coun. Jan Stick over the March 22 weekend. Upgrading of the current coin parking meter system to a mobile app payment system was discussed at a meeting on May 9. (Jan Stick/Submitted)

Whitehorse ponders parking plan

Technology changes could make parking payments easier

An updated City of Whitehorse parking plan could be the driver for improved meter and ticket technology down the road.

City planner Ben Campbell outlined possibilities for an updated parking management plan at a council and senior management meeting May 9.

Among the 21 initiatives proposed are the addition of mobile apps to pay for parking and upgrading the current coin meter system to smart meters which could accept card and app payments.

It was the four-to-eight year timeline for the technology upgrades that had council members asking questions.

Coun. Laura Cabott wondered why the plans weren’t designated as short-term plans to happen within four years.

Selby Thannikary, a Stantec consultant who’s been working on the plan, explained via conference call, the initiatives were identified as medium-term plans in the four-to-eight year range to give the city time to find the right vendors to provide potential products and services needed for the new services.

It will give the city time to work out its options, he said.

Mayor Dan Curtis pointed out the initiatives outlined in the proposed plan would have to be adopted by council and could be changed to meet current circumstances in Whitehorse.

Indeed, Campbell said council could direct administration to move the initiative to the short term if it wanted work done sooner.

“Moving it up to me makes sense,” Cabott replied.

The current coin meters are often subject to vandalism and it’s becoming more difficult to find parts for broken or damaged meters, she said, going on to highlight the desire of the public for new tech options to pay for parking.

Coun. Steve Roddick, who also attended via conference call, voiced his agreement with Cabott.

The plan also proposes exploring the city’s role with electric vehicles pointing to a long-term plan that would explore the possibility of charging stations.

The federal and territorial governments recently announced plans to install two electric vehicle fast-chargers in Whitehorse and one in Carcross as part of a three-year pilot project that will collect data as well.

Those will be in addition to more conventional chargers which take a few hours to charge a car already available at the Yukon Transportation Museum and the Yukon government’s main administration building.

While the Yukon government doesn’t charge for the use of the chargers at this point, the city plan would see drivers pay a rate in order to recoup associated costs that come with the service.

Campbell explained when questioned about it by Coun. Jan Stick that there could also be the potential of the city being viewed as competing with the private sector if it didn’t charge for the use as it’s anticipated the private sector will eventually offer the service for a fee as more people choose to drive electric vehicles.

The plan also aims to encourage Whitehorse residents to use active or alternative transportation with some discussion around the possibility of working with large employers to offer bus passes similar to the current program the city has with Yukon College and local high schools. Under that program students are provided with a bus pass with the college and Department of Education paying for the passes.

Cabott suggested more prominent bike parking in the downtown would go a long way to encouraging residents to cycle into work.

Though the plan also looks at possibilities for parking vehicles, it is also noted in the data collected as part of the work that while there are some time and locations where it can be difficult to find a specific parking spot, there is typically a place to park within two blocks of the desired location.

The possibility of having the city clear sidewalks on some streets to make it easier for pedestrians to walk during the winter months is also outlined in the plan though it would be a service that property owners would likely have to pay for. Currently property owners are required by bylaw to clear the sidewalk in front of their property.

A larger parkade is also contemplated in the plan, though only as a long-term initiative (eight-years or more) and only if a larger need for it is identified.

City staff will now work on revisions to the draft based on what came out of the meeting before having council look at it again in the next couple of months. A final draft would then come back to council for consideration before being adopted.

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

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