Tofino’s pay parking plan breezed through its first town hall event without any stones cast from its Zoom-based attendees.
The district plans to introduce pay parking at local beaches for the first time since 2007 and is ambitiously aiming to put that plan in place this summer.
Residents of Tofino and neighbouring First Nations will receive a free annual pass for the first year, while Alberni Clayoquot Regional District residents, including Ucluelet, Electoral Area C and Port Alberni, will be charged $60. Anyone living outside the ACRD will be charged $120. Hourly rates for non-pass-holders have not yet been finalized.
Along with additional town halls planned for the coming weeks, the district has also launched a new email address at firstname.lastname@example.org to collect and respond to questions and feedback from community members.
Tofino’s director of infrastructure and public works Fraser Work began the May 28 town hall event with a presentation running through why the district believes pay parking is needed and how it’s expected to be administered and then responded to questions that had been submitted.
He said the most frequent question was around whether residents of Tofino and neighbouring First Nations would be able to park at their local beaches for free.
“The recommendation right now and the intent right now is that Tofino residents and local First Nations will have access to free annual parking passes,” he said.
He said the district had also received feedback regarding its proposed four-hour maximum parking limit and said that limit is being reconsidered.
“I think that there’s a strong argument out there for longer stays,” he said. “I would say right now I’m not, nor would I recommend being, dead-set on a four-hour time limit for any user group.”
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He said the district plans to hire a private company to operate and enforce the new pay parking system and won’t know how much it will cost to set up until a company is chosen.
He added that it’s not yet possible to know how much revenue the program will bring in, but that “back of the envelope calculations” have suggested “hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more.”
Work told the Westerly News after the event that the district is considering all its options as well as feedback from community members.
He said the idea behind the four-hour time limit was to generate turnover.
“Once you’re an annual pass holder, there’s no incentive to move towards turnover. When you pay by the hour, obviously that’s automatically an incentive to get on your way,” he said. “What we’re going to do is keep talking about it and take everybody’s perspectives into consideration and see if there’s a way that’s simple and effective at balancing these different needs.”
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He added that while parking will be free for residents of Tofino and local First Nations in 2021, a fee might be introduced in following years.
“Many people in the community have expressed a very strong desire for it to be free forever. Part of the problem with parking right now is a lot of people abuse it because it is free. I’m not necessarily saying that that’s the same people, but with any service that’s given for free there will be some, maybe very few, but there will be some that take advantage of that,” he said. “There’s a general sense out there that Tofitians have paid out of their taxes to support these other tourist and visitor needs and maybe that in itself is reason enough to maintain avoiding a fee for service at this stage and I think that has lots of really important merits.”
He added that pay parking does not prevent people from being able to access the beach for free, as anyone who cycles, walks or rides the town’s summer shuttle will avoid the fees.
“It’s just going to cost you to park near the beach and that’s different,” he said. “I feel like that’s an important nuance.”
He said the idea of keeping Ucluelet residents outside of the free pass umbrella was heavily debated internally.
“When you start administering a program and you start offering one group free, you actually have to draw a line in the sand, no pun intended, and say this group free, this group discounted, this group normal fare,” he said.
“Whoever is on either side of that boundary might feel really privileged or might feel disadvantaged and it’s hard to balance. We’ve got to keep talking about that stuff. There was no intent to devalue how important and unique the needs and desires are for the Ukee community, we’re really just trying to figure out where does it make sense to draw that line in the sand administratively.”
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