Will higher rates solve parking woes?

Calmer heads prevail now when talking about parking downtown than they did in 2011 when the City was proposing building a parkade at Riverside Park.

But parking in the core is still a heated issue for people - complaints include that there's not enough of it so people have to park too far away from where they're trying to go; there is a two-hour limit; business people take all the good spots, and so on.

Another argument is that parking should be free; after all, there's no charge to visit businesses on the North Shore nor does anyone pay to park while visiting the city's many shopping malls.

And now the City is proposing a huge overhaul of how parking works downtown with a 10-year plan that includes doubling the per-hour cost to $1 from the current 50 cents, up to $1.25 in 2015 and $1.50 in 2018.

The proposal also would see minimum fines double - to $10 from $5, if a parking ticket is paid within 24 hours.

If it proceeds, these extra charges are forecast to raise an extra $920,000 in revenue, leaving a surplus of $359,000 once expenses are covered off. The surplus would go toward so-far-unidentified parking improvements downtown, perhaps even a future parkade.

A hike in fees seems reasonable given the rate hasn't changed since 1994 and money to pay for future solutions has to come from somewhere.

On the plus side, the new system would also allow people to pay with their smartphones and park for a third hour at a cost of $2.

It's a lot to digest but there's still time for members of the public to get answers to questions they have about the proposed parking overhaul and the rationale behind the changes. The City is hosting a public forum Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Interior Savings Centre.

What we do know is that there has to be some movement in how parking is being handled downtown.

It can't continue as it is, which something everyone seems to agree on.

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