Monthly parking passes on chopping block at City parkade; rates set to rise

Monthly parking permits might be a thing of the past starting next month at the City-owned parkade.

A recommendation passed third reading in City council Tuesday night to transition to a day-permit system starting July 1 — away from the current monthly parking system — and raise the hourly rates by 25 per cent, from $1.50 to $2 per hour.

An increase in paving costs, inflation, technology changes and need for more transportation infrastructure drove the rise in rates, with City staff recommending the increase to align with on-street parking rates, which rose from $1.25 to $2 per hour recently.

Earlier this year council increased the on-street parking to address the rising infrastructure costs, and limited downtown parking.

The move away from monthly parkade permits is intended to “maximize the City’s current parking assets and encourage use of commuter parking lots,” noted City deputy chief financial officer Aimee Mooney.

The Vernon Street Parkade currently hosts 191 stalls of which 156 are allocated to monthly permit holders. The remaining stalls are available for daily use.

“Over the past year, staff have performed spot checks and although the monthly permits are fully subscribed, these stalls are roughly 50 per cent vacant on any given day of the week,” Mooney said in her report.

With monthly parking permits no longer available, all parking stalls will become first come, first serve, as recommended in the 2021 Downtown Parking Strategy.

Rates will update as follows:

- hourly rate: $2 per hour, aligning with on-street metered parking; and

- daily rate: $8, which will remain unchanged.

Along with the transition, Mooney said the City will be implementing the new mobile payment app within the parkade to make payment more user-friendly through technology.

Notice of the parkade changes will be posted on the City website and City social media accounts and emailed to monthly permit holders.

Parking Strategy point

According to the rationale of the Downtown Parking Strategy:

Replace monthly permits with daily reservations: only pay for the days you need

It is common to see Nelson’s on-street parking at-capacity while off-street lots are at half-capacity or less.

A common complaint is that even though the parkade is fully subscribed, it often looks half-empty. Monthly permits do not make sense for part-time workers — according to the 2016 census, 65 per cent of Nelson-area workers work less than full-time around the year.

The space rented by a full-time worker is likely empty at least two days a week (and during vacation).

This survey found that only 47 per cent of commuters “always” drive to work. At least one-fifth of respondents work fewer than five days per week downtown. In this situation, monthly parking passes are not efficient (pass holders might walk to work two times out of five) or ideal from a multi-modal sustainability perspective (once parking is prepaid, there is no incentive not to drive from time to time).

Phasing out monthly permits, also recommended by Whitehorse’s downtown parking strategy, will ensure that parking spaces are occupied more of the time. It creates an incentive to only drive on days when one needs to (even if it is every day) by not having to pay for days that parking is not needed.

If reserved in advance, commuters benefit from the reassurance that they have a guaranteed parking spot on the days they need it; they do not need to waste time searching for parking. It would allow weekend and part-time workers to benefit from parking normally reserved for Monday-to-Friday commuters.

Source: City of Nelson Downtown Parking Strategy

Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily