Downtown drivers will feed kiosks from their cellphones instead of plugging coins into meters.
City council passed motions Tuesday that will boost the rate of parking downtown, buy 90 parking kiosks that will track payments to licence plates and borrow the money to pay for them over a five-year period.
It was the latter part of the parking proposals that councillors Donovan Cavers and Marg Spina opposed.
The Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association endorsed all the changes, and manager Gay Pooler said afterward the amount of discussion at council surprised her.
Her association has been dealing with downtown parking for a decade. Spaces can be hard to come by and employees and business owners are filling them because it’s cheaper to do that than pay for off-street parking, she said.
That’s why parking rates are going up to $1 from the current 50 cents, despite other communities like Kelowna and Vernon still at that lower rate.
Pooler said those cities are also looking at raising rates.
Council’s decision dealt with one part of an overall parking plan to look at short- and long-term solutions.
Tuesday’s motion consisted of four parts. All of council supported the increase in rates, the creation of a downtown parking solutions infrastructure fund and to go with a pay-by-licence-plate kiosk system.
What Cavers and Spina objected to was the financing.
Cavers said the kiosk plan was only made public two weeks ago, giving residents little time to look at the information and provide feedback.
A meeting was held last week to gather public opinion, and it was because several people commented about the proposed 10-year loan to pay for the kiosks that a five-year version was presented to council Tuesday.
Still, Cavers said he’s heard from people concerned that raising parking rates will push drivers into the residential areas on the downtown perimeter.
Spina wanted the City to phase in the kiosks, trying out some to see how they work and what the response is.
“What if we do this and have this big investment and it doesn't work? How do you reverse that kind of decision? So I thought a phased-in project made more sense,” she said.
"I need to see it's a reasonable plan that takes into account we're going to have all this new revenue and if we waited six months, we 'd know more."
Coun. Tina Lange noted the KCBIA said the rates can’t be raised unless there’s something new offered to people shopping downtown. The kiosks allow them to pay by cellphone, which is a convenience they don’t have now.
The public meeting drew 60 people who gave input, and their concerns about the cost of borrowing over 10 years was reduced to five years, said Mayor Peter Milobar.
If the City took Spina’s phased-in approach, the next round of technology will have changed, and so would subsequent phases.
“This is about charging for parking, and aging equipment,” he said.
Coun. Nancy Bepple was all for the change.
"I've used kiosks in Ottawa and Holland; I think we're ready for them here."
Coun. Nelly Dever asked if fewer bylaws officers would be needed as they would be policing 90 kiosks instead of 850 meters.
But community safety and enforcement manager Jon Wilson said they still have other duties, so there might be efficiencies found with on-call staff hours, but not regular full-time staff.