Kiosks are in place, enforcement officers are on patrol and apps are set up for online payment as pay parking has returned to Tofino’s beaches, though the district is hoping for a kinder reception this time around as frequent vandalism and community outrage put an end to its first attempt in 2007.
Residents of Tofino and neighbouring First Nations are eligible for a free pass until Oct. 31, 2022, and can register at www.tofino.ca/parking.
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District residents, including Ucluelet, Port Alberni and surrounding First Nations will be charged $60 for an annual pass and anyone living outside the ACRD will be charged $120. Anyone without an annual pass will be required to pay an hourly rate of $3 per hour or $12 for a day pass. Any vehicles registered to a business, including those owned by Tofino residents, must pay $120 for an annual pass.
The district has agreed to pay Robbins Parking Service $280,000 to implement and operate the new pay parking system as well as 5.5 per cent of the net revenues.
Director of infrastructure and public works Fraser Work told the Westerly News that $1 million is a conservative estimate for how much the system could bring in, meaning Tofino could have $600,000 of revenue to spend after Robbins takes its cut.
“I think everybody’s expectation is that there’s going to be a significant revenue stream here,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that we want to do and things are expensive and things are, in many cases, more expensive to do here than they are in other communities…At the end of the day, I would hope that people that care about this community and about building this community in the way that it needs to develop would also honour and realize how important another set of revenue like parking revenue is for our community.”
He added the contract with Robbins stipulates that the company will handle all enforcement responsibilities, allowing the town’s bylaw enforcement team to focus on other issues.
“That was always one of the main objectives of going down the pay parking road, everybody was pretty upset with the lack of dedicated enforcement to just do parking because there were so many parking fails out there,” he said.
He added the company has been told to adopt enforcement practices that align with the community’s values.
“What we’ve talked a lot about with Robbins is that we want to have a more ambassadorial approach to parking enforcement. We don’t want it to be super punitive, although there are people that abuse parking and do silly stuff out there that everyone would agree deserves a ticket,” he said. “That is the posture that we want to adopt. We want to be more collaborative, collegial and a little bit softer.”
He added education will be given higher priority than ticketing as the system is introduced.
“We wanted to make sure that we had a very mild approach to enforcement that was focusing more on education and awareness-building than it was on tickets and penalties,” he said. “We’re only really interested in providing tickets for the first little bit to people that are considered to be making really poor decisions.” Work was happy to see the system get up and running before the end of summer’s tourist season.
“I was pushing for us to open in August, some people felt it was too fast and in some cases that argument has legs. The problem with that of course is that if you wait and delay, you lose on revenues and you also lose on all these lessons learned and these opportunities to learn about how to manage a parking system in the busiest parking time,” he said.
He acknowledged there has been pushback about the district charging residents of Ucluelet and First Nations south of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve $60 for an annual pass.
“As soon as you introduce a free pass for somebody, there’s a person standing next to them saying ‘What about me?’ I’ve had people from across the other side of the Island saying that they come here all the time and they contribute to our economy, so why don’t they get a free pass? You’ve got to draw the line in the sand somewhere,” he said. “There’s a whole bunch of different perspectives out there. In no way shape or form does anyone want to suggest that parking is a line of segregation that divides communities because it’s not.”
He said conversations around how the system could be improved as well as how best to invest the pay parking revenue will begin during this fall’s financial planning discussions.
READ MORE: Tofino set to charge for parking at beaches