Parking review isn't necessary

Parking isn’t the problem.

City of Nanaimo staff are preparing a report on downtown parking, considering new technology and strategies. The city is taking inventory of its parkades, parking lots and parking spaces and trying to read between the lines, and in doing so, it’s misreading the situation.

It sounds more like the municipality is overreacting to a suggestion that there isn’t enough free parking downtown and that’s why shoppers are staying away. Certain merchants believe that if only the city spends a few more tax dollars to shuffle and modernize its parking, then shoppers will decend on the downtown in droves.

First of all, free parking is already widely available in and around the downtown. The city’s parkades are so inexpensive – a loonie for two hours – that you can literally come up with the necessary change in your car’s seat cushions.

Trying to free up a few parking-meter spots can’t hurt, but smartphone apps, LED displays and digital signage sounds like science fiction that Nanaimoites aren’t asking for. We don’t have enough cars coming and going in our parking lots to justify even examining these expenditures. It’s fine to have a degree of foresight when it comes to traffic and parking infrastructure, but at our city’s rate of growth, by the time we actually run into real parking problems, this year’s technology will be totally out-of-date.

There are reasons why our downtown isn’t the retail centre we would like it to be – socio-economics, unsound business models, sluggish revitalization, etc. Pointing a finger at parking misses the big picture and we’re not thinking creatively if we decide the best way to drive retail is to offer up a few more free parking spots.

Not to suggest this is just a game, but when you play Monopoly and you roll the dice and you land on the space marked ‘free parking,’ nothing happens.

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