Go ahead and call this one a comeback; pay parking hasn’t been here for years.
During a recent regular meeting, Tofino’s council agreed to a partnership with Robbins Parking that will see user-pay parking installed at the paved and unpaved lots surrounding Tofino’s municipal hall.
Pay parking has not been seen in Tofino since 2007, when significant public outcry put an end to the district’s first crack at it.
Under the new plan, the paved lot will be reserved for RV’s, which will be charged a flat daily rate of $8 and prohibited from parking after 10 p.m. The gravel lot will be open to all vehicles and cost: $1 for up to two hours, $3 to park until 10 p.m. $5 for 24 hours and $25 a week.
Bylaw enforcement officers will enforce these fees and the district expects its new foray into user-pay parking to generate roughly $10,000 in annual revenue after the associated costs are subtracted, according to a report submitted by district CAO Bob MacPherson.
Fees at both lots will be in effect from May-September each year, though the official launch won’t occur until June 1 this year so as not to disrupt the district’s Main Street upgrades.
The lots will be served by one fee-collecting machine provided by Victoria based Robbins and the company will be responsible for collecting, and reporting on, the monthly revenue this machine takes in as well as the routine maintenance of it.
Tofino will pay Robbins about $940 per month as well as 15 per cent of the gross parking revenue, according to MacPherson’s report, which adds that Tofino will be on the hook for the machine’s credit card processing fees, digital payment service costs, wireless service, and any vandalism.
Coun. Cathy Thicke suggested the district was taking on too much of the bill compared to Robbins.
“I’m in support of this idea but what I’m concerned about is the district’s responsibility,” she said. “It seems excessive to me…I don’t know why we’re doing all this for them. It’s a big company. Why are we incurring these expenses? Tacofino has a business, we’re not paying their [credit] card processing fees.”
MacPherson suggested Thicke’s analogy was off.
“To set this apart from Tacofino, or any other business operating in town, this is someone who we have asked to provide a service to us. So, it’s more like if we hired a planning consultant to do work for us,” he said.
“There were many alternatives. We could do an honour box as has been done in the past. My recommendation is that we have a third-party, who has experience operating a pay parking system, operate this in a back-of-house kind of capacity.”
Hearing the district would foot any vandalism-related bills was a surprise to council as MacPherson had assured them in February, when he first proposed the user-pay system, that Robbins would cover any costs associated with vandalism to the machine.
“Last time we had this presentation, I specifically asked who was responsible for the cost of the machine if there was any vandalism and you stated that would be Robbins,” Coun. Duncan McMaster said to MacPherson, who acknowledged his mistake.
McMaster further charged that the rates MacPherson proposed were too low and he objected to offering discounts to long-term users.
“I would contest you can’t even get a campsite around Tofino for $25 a day,” McMaster said adding he would have preferred daily rates for long term parkers.
MacPherson agreed the rates were low but suggested they would rise once people became used to the idea of paying for parking.
“The most difficult implementation of a fee for pay parking is the first one; going from $0 to anything,” MacPherson said. “The people who I know in the industry all say that, when you’re first charging for parking, don’t try to get all your revenue at once.”
He also cautioned high rates could lead to over-congestion in residential areas.
“I’m very mindful of the potential for spillover effect,” he said. “If we were to charge $100 a week there, I think people would be very motivated to park in neighborhoods that are adjacent to downtown and I think we want to play a bit of a role in managing that.”
Coun. Greg Blanchette took an opposite view from McMaster and suggested the lots should not constrict parkers to just a week as many users might be tourists heading off on extended kayaking and camping trips in Clayoquot Sound.
MacPherson said the machine could be set up to accommodate longer-term parkers.
Coun. Al Anderson asked if boat trailers would be able to be stored in the lot.
“If so, then I think we should compare it to the cost of parking a boat trailer somewhere else to ensure that we’re not providing the cheapest parking for a boat trailer in town,” he said.
MacPherson responded boat trailers should be prohibited from both lots.
“My feeling, having seen boat trailers spend the entire summer out there, is that that’s probably not the best use of a piece of land that’s in the core of our commercial area: offering it as storage for boat trailers,” he said.
Anderson said he was fine with the way the plan MacPherson laid out and suggested Tofino shouldn’t expect a homerun on its first swing.
“I don’t think we’re going to get it down perfectly right from the start,” he said adding the plan could be tweaked after its first season in operation.
Council approved the agreement and MacPherson said he would report back after the summer season.
“My plan is to come back to council in the fall while the season is still fresh in everyone’s mind,” he said.