An open discussion on parking problems in downtown Kamloops brought up all sorts of grievances among neighbourhood business owners hoping to attract and retain customers.
Gay Pooler, manager of the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association, proposed ideas from the parking solutions group to a full house of business owners, employees and residents at Caffe Motivo on Wednesday night.
Pooler acknowledged there is no "silver bullet" to issues that keep clients away, but parking is an important piece that fits into a bigger puzzle.
"It has to be a combination of solutions," she said before injecting a little optimism into the issue. "If you don't have parking problems in your downtown, likely your downtown is dead."
Movie Mart owner Denis Walsh questioned why the ideas were so centred on parking, suggesting a public transit solution would increase congestion without the vehicles.
Brian Windsor, parking solution group member and Big Boot Inn owner, said a transit plan was in the works that includes a shuttle through the downtown based at the bus loop.
But the reality is monthly parking stalls are quickly becoming a thing of the past, said Pooler. And it's hurting the downtown economy.
"There's about 120,000 square feet of empty office space above ground level that is not rented out and one of the big barriers there is bigger companies would want parking stalls," said Pooler.
Most recent significant losses happened when a new hotel development near the Scoopz Ice Cream Parlour took away 160 stalls and the Lake City Casino took away 70 stalls for customers.
At the top of the list of solutions is changing the parking meter system.
"The rates haven't increased since 1994. They're way too reasonable," she said.
A $1 per hour zone and a $1.50 per hour zone would increase revenue and encourage drivers to park off Victoria Street.
Kiosk payment methods would allow a pay-by-license-plate system, payment by credit card and even payment by telephone, which would decrease ticketing and is thus "good for PR," said Pooler.
The new system would also eliminate carryover time on meters and eliminate the need for stall lines so more vehicles could park, which would add more than $300,000 of annual revenue, she said.
Increasing fines from $5 to $10 would mean another $150,000.
All told, the suggestions would mean $880,000 of new revenue per year, which the group wants to go into a parking infrastructure fund.
Long terms options to improve parking are public-private partnerships or multi-use developments with commercial or residential as well as parking components.
"We're not saying 'Let's build a parkade' — people visualize the two parkades we have that were built in the '70s," said Pooler. "That's not how people build parkades anymore."
Parking solutions member and urban planner Tony Bradwell of Urban Systems said the most encouraging part of the exercise is that a group is dedicated to addressing and revisiting downtown congestion plans now and as time goes on.
The Kamloops Voters Society is holding another public meeting on downtown parking on tonight at Desert Gardens at 540 Seymour St. from 7 to 9 p.m.