Tofino looks likely to let its proposed pay parking expansion into downtown sit idle for at least another season.
The district re-introduced pay parking at local beaches last year and manager of infrastructure and public works Fraser Work pitched a plan in the fall to expand the program into the downtown core.
During their Feb. 2 budget meeting though, Tofino’s municipal council expressed hesitance towards that expansion, with a majority suggesting more engagement would be needed before any new pay-stations were erected.
Work explained during the meeting that the intent of the pay parking program launched in 2021 was to increase the organization and coherence of the overall parking system and incentivize turnover to increase availability.
“We all knew that ad hoc and informal parking patterns were sometimes contradictory to safety standards as well as the health and wellbeing of the community as far as convenience, aesthetics and also were hard on infrastructure,” he said.
He said the beach pay parking program reduced those impacts and created an important source of revenue for the district and reiterated his recommendation to expand the program into the downtown core.
He suggested the downtown pay parking program would be seasonal, from May 1 to October 1, and include Campbell Street along with its cross streets from First to Fourth Street.
He added that expanding the program would come at a financial cost to the district and his department would need a budget boost to put it in motion.
“The expansion of pay parking into the downtown would require resources that the district currently does not have…The parking project really requires a significant set of advanced planning and engagement with stakeholders,” he said. “The engagement with business owners and different stakeholders in the downtown is different and very important to make sure that a system like this could be delivered in a successful fashion and we could continue to build positive momentum.”
He said the district is estimating $1.25 million in pay parking revenue in 2022 with $930,000 coming from local beach parkers, $260,000 from the proposed downtown expansion and $60,000 from the two municipal hall lots that were converted to pay lots in 2016.
He said the total expense for the district is expected to come in at $575,961.
“What we have here is a healthy revenue generator but it does have clear and significant expenses to maintain and manage,” he said.
He said the district is currently finalizing its 2021 numbers and refining its estimates for 2022’s earnings with an updated budget report en route, adding that enforcing pay parking downtown would not bring a significant cost increase along with it.
“Robbins has indicated that they’re able to achieve enforcement of the downtown within the current cost structure of the contract, which means that the net additional enforcement costs are quite low to add the downtown pay parking system,” he said.
Coun. Tom Stere said pay parking downtown would need to be clearly defined and include a thorough communication strategy.
“Clearly, the success of the beach implementation was through the incredible amount of community consultation and, in essence, the buy-in to the program. So. I think, that’s going to be a critical component to this part of the next phase of pay parking,” he said.
Coun. Britt Chalmers agreed.
“Looking at downtown, I wouldn’t want to rush into it. I think the engagement is really important for the buy-in as well as the communication of it and helping businesses understand the benefits,” she said.
Mayor Dan Law said he would prefer to wait a year before introducing pay parking downtown.
Coun. Duncan McMaster was the only council member to express support for Work’s recommended timeline.
“I think we need to move on it,” McMaster said. “I believe we’ve got to do some more dialogue, but I think people have been hearing about it for the past year or so and the sooner we move on it the better. It’s going to be painful, but I think once something’s put in place, then it will get massaged to suit everybody as time goes on.”
How the district will spend its pay parking revenue remains up in the air, though several councillors expressed a desire to put the money towards a new recreation facility as well as improved roads and parking infrastructure.
“In terms of the allocation of those surplus funds, there’s probably going to be a much more lively debate,” Stere said.
McMaster said he’d like to see a portion of the revenue go towards paying off the incoming “massive debt load” from the district’s proposed wastewater treatment facility.
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