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Nelson to raise parking meter rates by 60%

The city will also introduce meter payment by mobile phone
The City of Nelson plans to increase parking meter rates and fines this year. Parking revenue pays for road and sidewalk construction and maintenance, but construction costs have gone up 42 per cent since the last parking meter rate increase in 2017, the city says. Photo: Bill Metcalfe

Nelson’s city council has voted in favour of an increase to hourly parking meter fees from $1.25 to $2 this year.

Parking fines will also be increased by 60-to-100 per cent depending on the category of the infraction. For an expired meter, the fine will increase to $40 from the current $25 (or from $10 to $20 if paid within 14 days).

Even though these changes are planned for this year, the city has not yet announced the date they will come into effect.

Deputy chief financial officer Aimee Mooney, who recommended the changes to council at its Jan. 9 meeting, said that parking meter fees and fines, currently amounting to about $1 million annually, pay for much of the city’s construction and maintenance of streets and sidewalks.

Non-residential construction costs have increased by 42 per cent since 2017, the date of the last parking meter fee increase. She said that if street construction and maintenance were to come out of property taxes rather than parking meters, taxes would have to increase by 11 per cent.

Designated commuter parking spaces with meters on lower Cedar Street and on lower Hall Street next to the Prestige Lakeside Resort will remain at $5 per day to encourage use of commuter parking areas outside of the downtown core.

In 2017, the city increased parking meter fees from $1 per hour to $1.25 per hour. Prior to that, the last parking meter increase occurred in 2011.

In addition to increased construction costs, Mooney cited other reasons for the increase.

• More parking enforcement officers are needed, as identified in the city’s 2021 Downtown Parking Strategy.

• Downtown parking is limited, leading to many violations.

• At the current hourly rate of $1.25, paying for eight hours of parking costs the same as the early payment price of an expired meter ticket. This encourages some drivers to risk getting a ticket rather than paying for a day of parking.

Mooney said Nelson has 875 parking meters, which is six per cent of the parking spots in the city. About 40 per cent of people parking in Nelson do not live within the city limits. The successful enforcement rate on parking tickets is 85-to-90 per cent.

Councillors’ responses

Councillor Jesse Pineiro was the only councillor who voted against the new rates. Mayor Janice Morrison was not present at the meeting.

Describing the increase as “drastic,” Pineiro asked whether the city could not utilize other potential parking such as the RDCK’s lot at the community complex or the parkade.

“I would like us to explore other ways of creating that revenue without adding more to this burden for people,” he said. “Maybe the parking fines should go up but the rates don’t.”

Councillor Leslie Payne asked if the city could extend the hours of metered parking at the same time as increasing the rates.

She expressed concern that the increase will push drivers out of downtown and into the current non-metered two-hour parking zones and into residential parking.

Councillor Kate Tait said raising the fees is only one aspect of the 60 recommendations in the Downtown Parking Strategy, and she wondered when the other components of the plan will be acted upon, including additional resident parking, more communication about the commuter parking zones, and changes to the parkade that are proposed in the parking plan.

Tait said the meter fee increase “feels like a reaction, as opposed to a wholistic approach of implementing this giant strategy.”

City manager Kevin Cormack replied that the city has already moved on some aspects of the parking strategy, such as changes to resident parking zones and creating commuter parking zones.

“But it is a living thing,” he said. “As soon as we do one thing there is another impact, so there is definitely more to do.”

Mobile phone payment

Sometime in 2024, Mooney said, the city will introduce mobile payment, which will give drivers the option of paying for their parking spot on their phone, or extending their parking period remotely with their phone. Drivers will still be able to use coins if they wish.

Reprogramming meters for the increase, and upgrading them to accept phone payment, will come at a one-time cost of about $13,500.

Mooney said the meter increase is consistent with the Downtown Parking Strategy, which contains 60 recommendations for parking changes in the city.

The 55-page document contains recommendations on financial sustainability, park-and-ride, the parkade, downtown residential streets, residential guest permits, parking requirements, carsharing, tradesperson and commercial delivery, effective enforcement, increased compliance and electric vehicles.

The strategy document was based partly on a 2019 public survey, which got 903 responses indicating especially strong public interest in improving transit, creating a park-and-ride, commuter parking outside the downtown, use of the parkade for day-rate commuter parking, upgrading cycling infrastructure, and improving the residential parking program in lower Uphill.

Commuter parking

Cormack said it has been difficult to get driver buy-in on commuter parking zones. In addition to the two all-day paid commuter parking zones on Cedar Street, there is free commuter parking on Lakeside Drive near the airport, at the Government Road parking lot, in the Cottonwood Market parking area, and at the Rod and Gun Club. There is long-term paid permit parking at the Nelson Curling Club in the summer and at the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce’s building in Railtown.

“We need more support from business to encourage their employees or themselves to utilize those parking zones,” Cormack said, adding that there is also a number of private parking spots in the downtown that are underutilized.

On Jan. 4, the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce reacted to the upcoming meter rate change with a letter to council stating its opposition to such a large increase.

“We believe the rate increases should not exceed inflationary increases,” wrote executive director Tom Thomson. “We believe there is a sweet spot to maximizing revenues and ultimately keep customers out of the downtown shopping, dining and entertainment district.”

The letter suggests that the city increase fines but only moderately increase meter rates.


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Nelson changes six rules on residential parking

Nelson to pilot commuter parking zone

Bill Metcalfe

About the Author: Bill Metcalfe

I have lived in Nelson since 1994 and worked as a reporter at the Nelson Star since 2015.
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