Nelson launches online parking survey

City wants to hear solutions, not complaints: planner

Nelson city planner Alex Thumm doesn’t want to hear complaints about parking in Nelson. He wants to hear the public’s ideas and solutions.

He’s written a public online survey for that purpose, open until Feb. 18. As of Thursday it had received more than 400 responses.

“We have heard plenty about how it is hard to find parking,” he told the Star. “We don’t need data on how difficult it is for people.”

He said there are a number of competing interests vying for downtown parking: rural residents who commute to work in Nelson, shoppers, employees of downtown businesses, and residents of lower Uphill who feel the parking shortage encroaching on their neighbourhoods.

The survey intends to address the issue from all points of view.

Uphill

The survey asks for advice about residential parking permits.

“In Uphill we have the two-hour zones that are way oversubscribed,” Thumm said. “We have other blocks with resident-only permits, and during the day these blocks are often half empty.”

Thumm said he has heard from residents in lower Uphill who are “afraid to go out because when they come back they can’t find a spot within a couple of blocks, and it’s icy.”

Councillor Janice Morrison said she also hears similar problems.

“I keep hearing about the creep into residential areas,” she said.

Downtown employees

The survey asks whether respondents work downtown, where they live, if they drive, how they find parking, and their ideas on how the situation could be improved for them. Thumm said he doesn’t know how many commuters park downtown but that approximately half of people parking in Nelson live outside the city.

Commuters

One of the survey questions asks about the feasibility of a park-and-ride system, using improved transit as a shuttle from a parking lot just inside or outside the city limits, to keep traffic out of downtown.

“I have always been a bit enamoured of some system of park-and-ride,” said Morrison. “We have more and more people coming into town to work. One idea would be to start with a [pilot project] for people with regular hours of work.”

She said the park and ride concept was seriously discussed when she was on council in the late 1990s.

“Now there can be a traffic jam six cars deep at a light on Baker. I don’t recall that 10 or 15 years ago.”

Last year the city introduced all-day meters on Cedar Street meant for commuters. The Star asked Thumm how this has been working out.

“While at least half or so generally remain unoccupied most of the time, I can say that usage has steadily been increasing,” he said. “The more we tell people, the more people go.”

Parkade

The survey also asks about residents’ use of the parkade.

But even if vacant land were available, building another parkade can cost between $30,000 to $40,000 per stall.

Thumm wondered if there is an appetite to raise taxes enough for that.

Technology

The survey also asks for thoughts on technology such as pay-stations replacing coin-operated parking meters, online parking permits, or pay-by-phone systems.

The timeline

After the Feb. 18 survey deadline, there will be further consultation and an open house.

The survey is intended to complement a draft parking strategy approved by city council last May and attached below.

The goal of the strategy is not, Thumm said, to figure out where new parking lots should be built.

“We want to talk about how we can improve what we have, not just continue increasing the supply, which from an environmental perspective is not going to solve the problem.”

A sign of success?

Morrison said lack of parking is a double-edged sword.

“In one respect it is good to have a parking issue because that means people are coming to Nelson and they want to go downtown. There are lots of towns that would like to say they have a parking issue. It is a sign of the success of Nelson, even though you can not pull up and park right in front of the store you want to go to.”

Attached below: Nelson’s draft parking strategy, approved by city council in May 2018.



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

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