Discusses high-demand pricing, increased time restrictions

Not being able to find parking can be a hair-pulling, teeth-clenching ordeal. In some of Calgary’s commercial areas, this inconvenience is quite common, especially when the only available option is on-street parking.

Businesses have felt the frustration too.

The Kensington Pub relies on street parking, and manager Malcolm Parkinson said that customers “constantly complain” about not being able to find a place to park.

“Parking is premium already in Kensington,” he said. “People would stop coming to Kensington if street parking (prices) increase.”

On Nov. 14, the Standing Policy Committee on Transportation and Transit heard a possible solution to this issue.

Chris Blaschuk, a parking strategist for the City of Calgary, is proposing an amendment to the current parking policy that he feels will help businesses. His goal is to reduce congestion in areas of commercial on-street parking by implementing time restrictions that will benefit consumers. The time restrictions will mean shorter available park times during high demand periods, and longer available parking during low-demand periods. If this doesn’t work, then he said they will turn to demand-based pricing.

The idea aims to alleviate scenarios where parking is too expensive and consumers are parking in neighborhoods instead of empty stalls. It also targets the opposite — areas that are congested.

The City of Calgary transportation and transit committee met on November 14 to discuss parking congestion.

Photo by Drew Henn and Nicolle Amyotte

“There’s a huge advantage to the city to take advantage of the data collected through ParkPlus to demonstrate transparency in how we set parking prices,” said Blaschuk. “Let’s use that data to inform what changes need to be made to parking pricing.”

Ward 9 alderman Gian-Carlo Carra said the city is deriving significant revenue from onstreet parking.

“We’re charging for parking on commercial streets because the businesses are there creating that demand,” he said.

“I have business owners that are saying ‘why are you charging for parking? It’s driving away customers.’ These owners need to know that parking is not free.”

Blaschuk said that there are two key views in the business community.

“There’s the ‘you’re charging for parking in my area and that affects people’s perception as to whether I want to shop there or not.’ Then there’s the ‘I can’t find a place to park because it’s so congested.’”

In Calgary’s current parking policy, commercial street areas that average more than 90 per cent occupancy increase in price by $0.25 per hour on a yearly basis.

However, areas with less than 60 per cent occupancy see a decrease of $0.25 per hour for the next year. The parking policy aims to keep streets about 85 per cent full.

Blaschuk noted that with a demand-based model, prices would fluctuate throughout the day instead of annually.

“We’ve established a mechanism that will adjust prices up and down depending on where we are in relation to that 85 per cent,” he said.

“Rather than having uniform pricing from 9 a.m. to 6 a.m., there would be different components of the day where price would vary.”

Blaschuk said that pricing would be lower during low congestion periods like the early morning or later in the day, but would stay the same or increase in times where parking congestion peaks like lunchtime.

Parkinson said that in his view, this wouldn’t alleviate problems with lunchtime crowds but rather drive people away from Kensington.

Ald. Carra was adamant that a cost-recovery model needed to be built into the new system. In this, he wanted clarification on what amount of revenue generated by on-street parking went towards that street’s administration costs, ParkPlus system maintenance, and road maintenance.

“Without a cost-recovery model built in to the demand management side, we are undermining the effectiveness of this.”

Just because the discussion is there, doesn’t mean businesses can expect to see changes right away. The proposition is merely an effort to make sure that the ongoing amendment is on track. The actual hearing for approval won’t be until March 2013.

dhenn@cjournal.ca

namyotte@cjournal.ca