PARKADES ARE SACRED in Kamloops. Or at least that’s what it seems like after this week’s vote on council.
On Jan. 1, 2020, the City of Kamloops takes over the management of the parkades. Since 1973, the City owned parkades have been managed by the Downtown Parking Corporation.
But at this week’s (Nov. 26) council meeting, council quickly retreated from the parking increase by a vote of 8 to 1, with only Mayor Ken Christian voting for the increases.
With the vote, council is signalling they don’t want change, that it’s business as usual for the downtown parkades.
Which is to say, you can put a beautiful Bill Frymire mural on a Kamloops parkade, but it is still a parkade. A parkade for vehicles, and not much else. City Council isn’t willing to switch gears.
Looking at an aerial view of downtown, it’s clear that more than half the area of the downtown core is taken up with parking for vehicles. There are parkades, surface parking lots, and street parking.
But the more parking there is, the less space there is for people.
Around the world, cities are realizing parking does not make a city great. Especially in Europe, cities are taking away parking, to give more space to people. Small streets are closed to vehicles, providing pedestrian only spaces.
Sometimes it is just a few on-street parking spots to provide a patio area. That’s what is done in Nelson, B.C. on Baker Street, their version of Kamloops’ Victoria Street, where street parking is used for large restaurant patios.
Sometimes cities are reclaiming alleys. In Vancouver, they removed dumpsters, parking spots and debris, and then painted an alley with bright colours put up basketball hoops, and called Alley Oop. It started as a special on-time project, but the bright pink alley was so popular it stayed.
It means recognizing that not only cars and trucks should be given such preference for land use in our downtown. It means recognizing giving cars and trucks insanely cheap or free parkade rates gives them privilege over others.
It’s time that City council privileged non-vehicle users.
I have relatives in The Netherlands who I visit frequently, so I know that the parking garages for bicycles there are tremendous. They are bright, clean and secure. They even have free washrooms. The one in my relatives’ city of s’Hertogenbosch is in the heart of their downtown.
But given the council’s reluctance to make even the slightest change to how parking works in Kamloops, I’m not optimistic there will be any changes here.
It is time for change. It’s time parkades in Kamloops, and parking in general, gets a facelift. And by that I mean more than a mural.
Devoting 50 percent or more of our downtown to vehicle drivers ignores the needs of everyone else. Setting aside so much space for cars and truck means that there is less room available for pedestrian plazas and street parks. Every space given over to parking for cars and trucks means less resources available for pedestrians, cyclists, people with mobility devices, and transit users.
The status quo of 50 percent or more parking in the downtown also means a deader downtown. Nobody wants to hang out in a parking lot. People come downtown to be with other people, not with parked cars.
It’s time for City council to shift out of the 1970s and make people, not parking, a priority.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.