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Tofino readies pay parking expansion into downtown

Residents will likely be safe from fees and Campbell Street will remain temporarily free for all
Tofino’s beach pay parking program looks likely to be duplicated downtown. (Westerly file photo)

Parking fees are again being considered for downtown Tofino, though residents will likely be safe from charges and Campbell Street will remain temporarily free for all.

The district reintroduced pay parking at local beaches in 2021 and had initially planned to expand the program into the downtown core in 2022, but decided to wait for more consultation before moving ahead with that expansion.

During a presentation to Tofino’s municipal council on Jan. 24, Director of Infrastructure and Public Works Aaron Rodgers said the district is rolling out a community engagement process to flesh out and implement a downtown pay parking program, that will include consultations with residents, the chamber or commerce, Tourism Tofino and First Nations.

“Communications will be key to this program’s success,” Rodgers said. “I expect this will be more acrimonious than the beach parking just due to the nature of downtown and people living there and businesses operating and parking is generally acrimonious.”

He added that the district is anticipating allowing residents to be exempt from the downtown fees, as they are at the beaches.

He said beach pay parking brought in about $691,000 in revenue last year and, after accounting for $375,525 in expenses, netted roughly $316,386 along with $68,893 in fines.

“Our program was built for Tofino and it’s a very unique program,” he said. “We’ve received very limited negative feedback on the program, almost none, and for the most part it rolled out quite smoothly.”

He acknowledged that revenue fell short of expectations, but said the free parking passes for residents along with a lenient enforcement approach dampened the total dollar amount.

“We have a program that is resident-centred and tries to work with people, rather than be strictly enforced, so that reduces the amount of revenue,” he said.

He said downtown pay parking is currently expected to be seasonal from May-October and will operate from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and that the district estimates a net revenue of $212,899.

“The reason we’re suggesting seasonal parking is that we just want this to be a reasonable program, it’s not intended to be punitive to anyone,” he said.

He explained that adding fees to downtown parking would boost municipal revenue sources and incentivize turnover.

“The intent of this program is to ensure there is availability of parking spaces. In the end, we want people to be able to come downtown and find a place to park. That’s one of the prime drivers of this program,” he said.

He said expanding the pay parking program into downtown would encourage people to use alternative transportation methods other than their cars.

“Getting people out of their cars when they can is something that will help the community in terms of parking and congestion, it helps the environment and it’s a more healthy way of living,” he said. “It also provides a significant revenue stream for the district to put towards other important district programs.”

He said the downtown pay parking program would be separate from the beach, meaning the same pass would not work in both areas.

Coun. Ali Sawyer asked why the beach and downtown parking fees would not be harmonized.

“Everything is still on the table,” Rodgers responded. “It gets quite complicated, because the needs of parking downtown and parking at the beach are quite different.”

He suggested allowing people to use the same pass to park at the beach as well as downtown could “clog up the system” and that downtown parking would be designed to create higher turnover than at the beach.

“It isn’t off the table yet, but it makes it a lot more complicated because they are essentially two different needs,” he said.

He added the provincial government is currently unwilling to allow fees charged on Campbell Street.

“Unfortunately, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is not interested in allowing us to run pay parking on Campbell Street, which is awkward because that is our prime parking area where people seem to want to park,” he said.

“Because we know we can’t charge for parking on Campbell Street, we’re going to have to ensure that we have very short time limits there so that the parking turns over quite quickly so we don’t have people parking in front of a lot of our retail businesses that need turnover and ensuring a strong enforcement.”

He said Robbins will still deliver the enforcement in downtown areas that will not be paid parking.

He said the district’s current offshore parking would not be changed, adding that the First Nations who use that parking will be consulted.

“It’s still important to connect with them early and make sure that we’re on the same page and they’re understanding what’s happening in the downtown core,” he said.

He said the district is in talks with Wickaninnish Community School about potentially using the school’s parking spots along 4th street and staff lot in the summer, suggesting any money collected from those spots could go towards funding school programs.

“The idea at this point would be a win-win-win where we provide more parking to the community, Robbins runs it and the money that they collect goes back to the school,” he said.

He added that the Tofino Co-op’s parking lot would not be included in the pay parking program, but would be an important stakeholder.

“Any way or time you put pay parking somewhere, you’re going to push parking to other places that’s free,” he said. “Whether (the Co-op) decides to go down the same route and do something similar as to what we’re doing, or whether they decide to keep it free, they have to be involved because what happens downtown is going to affect that (lot), which is then going to affect everybody who shops at the Co-op.”

Rodgers added that Tofino’s population is growing and space is running out.

“Part of the reason we want to do a pay parking program isn’t just for the revenue, it’s to stop people from driving downtown in the summertime when they have other alternative options that are viable like the (seasonal shuttle), like walking, like the bike,” he said.

“No one’s building anymore downtown space in Tofino and to build something like a parkade, for example, or underground parking, is phenomenally expensive and phenomenally ugly…Pay parking does provide revenue, but the prime driver of it is actually to get people to make a different decision sometimes, not even everyday.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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