About $1.5 million could be saved if the City were to purchase replacement parking meters rather than moving to new technology, council was told on Monday.
The problem is that parking meters won't solve chronic issues with downtown parking as identified by the business community, said Jon Wilson, community safety and enforcement manager.
Wilson outlined a 10-year, $1.7-million plan to convert downtown parking to a pay-station system, stepped increases to meter rates over five years and an increase in fines for violations.
Council voted unanimously in favour of taking the plan to an open house at Interior Savings Centre on Tuesday, Feb. 26, starting at 7 p.m.
Wilson said the meters are obsolete with some units approaching 20 years of age. New technology would enable a new range of options, including payment by smartphone, electronic enforcement using licence-plate numbers and the ability to extend parking for a third hour.
"We will end up having a better parking system than most other communities of comparable size," Wilson said.
The plan comes after a year of consultations and review by Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association.
If the plan is approved, downtown parking rates would rise to $1 an hour when the new system is installed, $1.25 an hour in 2015 and $1.50 an hour in 2018. The rates have been static for almost 20 years. Revenue from the higher rates would more than cover the cost of the new equipment.
An estimated parking-revenue surplus of $359,000 could be channelled into an infrastructure development fund to pursue other parking solutions. In effect, parking will be paying for parking, Wilson said.
Based on the will of the business community — a driving force in the initiative — the surplus would probably go into a fund for a future downtown parkade, said Mayor Peter Milobar.
Some councillors disagreed, suggesting the original idea was to look at a variety of approaches with the fund, not only one exclusive to motorists.
"At $359,000, you're not going to be able to do a heck of a lot of any aspects," Milobar said. "You can't think there is a magical parking fund that's going to build bicycle trails everywhere."
Coun. Tina Lange wondered why the plan didn't account for reduced maintenance costs, since the existing meters require a full-time staff member to maintain them. If the public can see savings, they'll be more inclined to support the plan, she reasoned.
Wilson said the current complement of four bylaw officers will need to be maintained, with the freed-up position applied to other duties.
Coun. Marg Spina wondered whether raising the rates with the current system would raise revenue gradually as an alternative to borrowing costs, which amount to an estimated $300,000.
But Wilson said that approach wouldn't address downtown parking problems. He believes the solutions, as an additional benefit, will serve to generate a degree of public interest.
The new system would have two machines installed on opposite corners of downtown streets for a total of 90 units replacing 850 on-street meters.