Tofino is set to expand pay parking into its downtown core next year.
This past summer saw the district re-introduce pay parking at local beaches for the first time since 2007 after signing a contract with Robbins Parking Service and agreeing to pay the company $280,000 to operate the program as well as 5.5 per cent of the net revenues.
“The good news with this introduction of downtown on-street parking is that we can largely accomplish that within the current contracted costs,” Tofino’s director of infrastructure and public works Fraser Work told the town’s council during an Oct. 14 budget meeting. “We don’t expect to incur significant additional costs with the introduction of the downtown streets.”
He recommended that pay parking be brought into the downtown core in phases, with the initial phase being “along Campbell Street as the spine with the ribs of that spine being First to Fourth between Main and Neil.”
Unlike beach pay parking, which is in effect year-round, he suggested the downtown program be seasonal and run from May 1 to Oct. 1.
“Whatever we do downtown has to be done very thoughtfully and in partnership with the First Nations with respect to the offshore permit parking as well as with parking overall…The requirement to engage with the neighbouring businesses and the different stakeholders along that spine and along the ribs is paramount,” Work said said.
“I want to give the public and council a little bit of assurance that there’s many details that have to be sorted out within the pay parking system and its expansion into downtown and we want to do so in a way that continues on a track record of support and endorsement across council and the community.”
He said he was encouraged by how well pay parking was received at the beaches over the summer and said the program was intended to improve road safety, organize space and generate revenue.
“Things got very busy very quickly in the summer of 2020 and it was very clear to me as a new guy here in town that people were very frustrated with the ad hoc nature of lots of the parking as well as some of the poor parking patterns and behaviours,” he said. “There were many, many, calls for increased, dedicated enforcement to be out and about visually and with violation notebooks in hand to make sure those problems were corrected and steered towards a better system.”
In terms of revenue, Work is projecting pay parking to bring in about $1.25 million in 2022. He said the two municipal hall lots that became seasonal pay parking lots in 2016 are projected to bring in $60,000 next year and the beach pay parking spots are projected to bring in $930,000 with another $2,000 coming from permit fees. He expects the new downtown pay parking spots to bring in $260,000.
That $1.25 million will be chopped down to an expected net revenue of about $690,00 as the beach pay parking is expected to cost $288,932, the new downtown program is expected to cost $207,376, the two municipal lots are expected to cost $33,689 and administration is projected to cost $5,965 for a total of $560,962 in expenses.
Work suggested though that 2022’s net revenue of $690,000 is expected to jump to around $1.3 million annually from
“I would caveat strongly that our current projections are built on only a couple of months of intelligence,” he said. “We’re being a little bit conservative in areas that we believe that that’s prudent, but these are all subject to every month of learning that we achieve through the beach parking system to make sure that we don’t overestimate or underestimate.”
Coun. Al Anderson cautioned that charging for parking downtown will likely be met with pushback from residents and business owners.
“There’s residences in the downtown that provide no parking. There’s businesses that have, I guess, co-opted public land to some extent to call their own parking, even posted that it’s parking for only their business and I think those are some of the areas that are going to be particularly problematic in moving forward. I don’t know how we’re going to deal with that,” Anderson said. “The downtown has, sort of over the years, gathered uses of public land by businesses particularly. It’s developed as sort of a sense of ownership of those uses on public land, so I think that’s going to be difficult to move beyond and I’m hoping we can find a way to move through all that.”
Work responded that collaboration and engagement with the community will be key.
“In my experience in the parking game, it’s a hot, emotional space that really does butt up against people’s personal convenience and their own business interests and their own personal interests,” he said. “A lot of business owners don’t necessarily understand, nor should they, how people come to arrive at their business. Having healthy parking turnover on the street right out in front of your boutique, your restaurant, your store, your service, can be a very good thing for business that is sometimes hard to prove or to show, but in my experience it’s very clear.”
Mayor Dan Law suggested downtown pay parking would be “far more complex” to implement than the beaches and suggested targeting a 2022 roll-out might not provide enough time to put an effective plan in place.
“The cost is higher and perhaps some of the rewards are less, at least in revenue,” Law said. “I’m not sure if 2022 is a hard start, but I just encourage you to take time and be as thorough and as careful as possible. I think one of the reasons that (beach) pay parking went so smoothly overall was that it actually had very little impact on residents’ experience generally.”
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