An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
IT WAS NICE WHILE IT LASTED but free parking downtown is coming to an end because, quite simply, it didn’t work.
City council will approve a report from staff tomorrow recommending paid parking go back into effect in two phases. Starting after the May long weekend, paid parking will return on the street. After the July long weekend, or possibly the August long weekend, it will go into effect on City-owned surface lots and parkades.
The logic is that too many employees — those of businesses that are still open — are hogging free parking in front of the stores so that customers can’t find convenient parking spots.
Even the installation of temporary loading zone-and-pickup signs hasn’t deterred the parking-space hogs. There’s an answer to this, which is enforcement — aggressively ticket the offenders. If business owners cracked down on employees causing the problem it wouldn’t hurt, either.
It’s true, though, that the gradual easing of COVID-19 restrictions will result in more stores being open, and more demand for parking.
The experiment with free parking serves as a reminder of what paid parking is supposed to be all about. The temporary removal of paid parking was based on a Mr. Nice Guy approach in hopes that it would encourage shoppers to visit the stores that have remained open.
But it ignored what paid parking is designed to do, which is to keep shoppers and employees from taking up spaces over prolonged periods during business hours.
This short-term free-parking thing also brings into question the recent insistence at City Hall that the downtown area doesn’t actually need more parking.
As we return to paid parking, maybe we can begin the whole parking debate all over again, this time with fresh eyes.
I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.