There is a very strong interest among Nelson residents in improving transit and creating a frequent and free park-and-ride system for commuters to reduce downtown traffic.
This is one finding of a City of Nelson survey answered by 903 people over the past couple of months.
Other main conclusions, reported by city planner Alex Thumm at Monday’s council meeting, include:
• Strong support for free commuter parking outside downtown to leave the core for short term and residential parking;
• Day rate commuter parking is slightly more popular than monthly, perhaps because of part-time workers;
• There is a strong desire to use the parkade for commuter parking only during the day;
• The city should improve active transportation options by upgrading cycling infrastructure and sidewalk snow clearing;
• There is some interest in improving the residential parking program in lower Uphill but not as much as staff expected.
Of the responders, 68 per cent reported that they live within city limits and 55 per cent (including many city residents) regularly commute to the downtown.
Three questions that provided the most complex responses were residential parking, the parkade, and a park-and-ride system.
Thumm said the residential parking program in lower Uphill “is one of the most interesting challenges with downtown parking, where you have the most clear dichotomy of people who live downtown and commuters and visitors to the downtown.”
Half of respondents reported they were unsure whether the current program works well, a quarter said it works well, and a quarter said it does not.
People who like the system said it is fair. Many of those who don’t like it think there should be more permits per household.
The current rule on several lower Uphill streets is one free parking permit per dwelling unit that has no off-street parking. If a house has two units but only one off-street parking space, only one of the dwelling units will be entitled to a parking permit. Some of those streets have two-hour parking, and others have residents-only parking with a permit.
Among respondents who live on a permit-regulated block, 49 per cent do not agree with the current system, 29 per cent agree and 17 per cent are unsure.
Thumm said a majority of respondents said the parkade should be used for all-day commuter parking, not for shorter term use. But even if it were designated that way, there are still potential problems, he said.
“I have heard people say, ‘Yeah, I look at it and the sign says it is full and there is a waiting list for permits, but I can see that it is not full.’
“I have heard of people who are not really using their monthly permits but they are afraid to let go of them. Because of the waiting list, they might never get one again. So there are people not using it even for an entire season.”
Park and ride
Councillor Keith Page asked Thumm where park-and-rides would be located. Thumm said this would require a discussion between the city, the Regional District of Central Kootenay, and Ministry of Transportation, and that the strong support for a park-and-ride in the survey responses will likely prompt such a discussion.
Councillor Brittny Anderson pointed out the current park-and-ride just west of town is used just as much for people leaving town as for people entering it, so this current use might not decrease downtown traffic much.
Thumm’s report will now feed into council’s strategic priorities session in April, according to councillor Rik Logtenberg who chaired Monday’s meeting in the absence of Mayor John Dooley.
Logtenberg told the Star it’s obvious that a lot of people care about parking because of the large number of responses to the survey.
“It’s clear we have an issue that goes beyond parking,” he said.
“Parking is a sort of symptom of a bigger challenge we have around transportation.
“For example, to free up parking spaces we have to get cars off the road, so this means more work on active transportation, more work on transit.”