Downtown Nanaimo parking rates increased in new strategy

NANAIMO – Plan aims to increase turnover on busy streets while filling often-empty parkades.

Drivers will need more spare change to park on downtown streets this fall as the city rolls out the first phase of a new parking strategy.

On-street meter rates are expected to increase for the first time in a decade this October as the city acts on parking changes approved by Nanaimo City Council Monday.

The City of Nanaimo has proposed a $897,250 multi-year parking plan aimed at increasing revenue, filling parkades and speeding up turnover on busy streets. According to a city report, more traffic downtown has created congestion  where parking is free and high use of public streets in residential areas where people park their vehicles and walk to work. It’s left the city with underutilized parkades and merchants that see little turnover of traffic on streets in front of their businesses. The city’s parking rates also don’t support financial obligations for annual repairs, maintenance and debt repayment for parkades, the report says.

The new strategy would eventually see the elimination of free two-hour parking and new meters in popular downtown areas like Commercial Street and the Old City Quarter – a cost politicians will consider during budget talks.

Nanaimo city council has opted to begin rolling out the plan this year with two-hour restrictions in downtown residential areas and new meter rates that will see it cost more for premium on-street parking than parkades.

Street stalls will increase from 50 cents an hour to $1.25 while parkades will cost 75 cents for two hours. There will also be rate increases for off-street facilities, including a hike from $3 to $9 for 12-hour parking at the city’s Cavan, Wallace and Wentworth street lots. A one-year program will offer free evening and weekend parking at the Bastion Street parkade.

Mayor John Ruttan called the plan a positive change.

“I know one of the concerns I get all the time is there’s not enough parking downtown and I think part of the answer to that is there’s not enough movement of cars from the existing parking,” he said. “I think this would certainly help.”

Coun. Bill Bestwick took issue with giving away parkade parking. The city, which recently spent $200,000 on repair work at the Bastion Street facility, would lose more than $2,000 monthly if it allowed people to use stalls at no cost on evenings and weekends.

“We have to maintain that and I can’t imagine giving parking away,” he said.

Coun. Bill McKay suggested the city review parking structure for hotels to increase revenue.

Changes approved this week are expected to be in place by Oct. 1. It will cost an estimated $62,250 and is expected to generate more than $300,000 in increased annual revenue. The entire plan, proposed to take place over three years, would increase revenue by $872,500 each year.