New technology for parking meters that could be used with a smartphone is being considered for downtown Kamloops.
Mayor Peter Milobar, with the agreement of council, asked that the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association (KCBIA) create a proposal for the technology, along with a new fine and rate structure, for the City to consider in October.
During a council workshop on Tuesday, Jon Wilson, the City’s community safety and enforcement manager, presented a report from the KCBIA, put together after the association held public input sessions this spring.
It proposes doing away with parking meters and replacing them with a ticketing system that could be operated by coin, credit card or smartphone.
It also suggested erasing parking lines on downtown streets, which are the size of “pickup trucks,” said Wilson.
He said the change would create up to three new parking spaces per block, but council was split over the idea.
A lack of downtown parking and public perception of unfair fine rates are two of the pressing issues the parking changes are supposed to address.
Council agreed that a fund specific for parking infrastructure should be created, but did not decide on the details.
The idea behind the fund would be to make “parking pay for parking” rather than levying businesses or using tax money, said Wilson.
Coun. Nancy Bepple said she’d like to see such a fund set up, but would not want all the money raised from parking to go into it.
“Parking is a public asset,” she said. “Not every single person that comes downtown is patronizing a business.”
Milobar said the current parking infrastructure raises $600,000 annually. He said perhaps it could be kept in general city coffers, and any extra revenue could go into the parking fund.
“Metered parking was (not) put in . . . to make money,” noted Coun. Tina Lange, rather to keep people moving in high-demand parking areas.
“What we’ve been charging has more than covered the cost.”
As a result, she suggested, any extra money made from new parking initiatives should be put into a parking infrastructure fund.
The current parking meter rate downtown is 50 cents per hour with a maximum of two hours, and the report proposed a threefold increase to $1.50 per hour for high-demand areas like Victoria Street and adjacent avenues. Other lower-demand areas would be bumped up to $1 an hour.
“Metered parking rates have to be structured such that’s it a disincentive to parking on the street,” said Wilson.
The current $5 ticket, for example, for an expired meter is not enough to discourage abuse, he said.
Councillors Marg Spina, Nelly Dever and Arjun Singh all supported the idea of creating incremental fines that would get higher the more times someone violated parking rules.
“The change is going to be tough for people, because it’s been this way for a long time,” Singh said. He suggested having friendly ambassadors downtown would be helpful if new parking meter systems are installed.
Council will still decide whether a new system will mean parking would be paid based on numbered spots, or individual vehicle licence plates.
Council also voted Tuesday afternoon to put out a call for expressions of interest from businesses to create proposals for long-term parking in the city.
Bepple, however, expressed concerns that asking developers to propose a solution may be more expensive than the City creating its own solution.