Rothenburger: Tripling parking rates way overdue

Mel Rothenburger / Kamloops Daily News
January 10, 2013 01:00 AM

Council should get off its heinie and triple the rate for downtown parking meters.

Let's face it, we've had it too easy for too long. Fifty cents an hour? You can barely get a donut to dunk in your decaf latte for that.

Until a few months ago, I never had to bother with meters because I worked downtown and enjoyed the considerable luxury of a permanent parking space provided by my employer. Now that I have to pay for a stall like everyone else when I'm shopping or meeting the cronies for coffee, the issue hits home.

I feel guilty paying so little to take up prime real estate on Victoria Street - there hasn't been a price increase in close to 20 years. As for the two-hour limit on occupying a stall, it's plenty.

At a buck-fifty an hour, we'd still be paying less than those unfortunates in Vancouver and other places. In Calgary, for example, you'll pay up to $4.50 an hour for a good spot; in Victoria, it's $2 for 48 minutes

(I know, they do a lot of things differently in Victoria).

Now you're probably going to bring up Kelowna - where the rates are about the same as here. And you'll tell me that, two years ago, Prince George stopped charging for downtown parking.

And then I'll point out that, if you must live in Prince George, you need all the incentive you can get. And second, PG has given up on free parking because it was losing too much money, and will bring back paid parking this year.

Notice that I haven't even mentioned what the money should be used for yet. Even if the extra revenue goes straight into the City's bank account to be spent on whatever council wants to spend it on, $1.50 an hour would be fine with me.

However, there are better ideas out there. The Kamloops Central BIA wants a cut to go directly for improving downtown parking. That makes sense.

Please, don't raise the old saw that merchants should pay for better parking because they're the ones who need it for their employees.

Every employee who plugs a meter takes a space away from a shopper, so if we pay closer to what that space is worth, everybody wins.

Council is mulling over an updated report from the KCBIA on the issue. It contains a lot of good ideas on ways to increase parking and make it work financially - including boosting the rates.

However, the Kamloops Voters Society is bang on when it says we shouldn't assume the public is ambivalent on the issue because the turnout to parking forums (one of which I moderated a couple of months ago) has been light.

If the City were to hold a public hearing, well advertised and explained, I expect a lot of people would be there with opinions.

One thing for sure, meters are on the way out. They're costly and inefficient. Pay stations, where you can use your credit card if you want, are in. Victoria, Calgary, Toronto and a lot of other cities have them already.

There are many options on how to tackle downtown parking but the first thing that needs to be done - and it's long overdue - is to boost rates.

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