Nanaimo’s new parking strategy behind schedule

NANAIMO – The city's new parking changes are behind schedule. New signage is expected to be posted this December.

Nob Hill streets have been so clogged with cars, residents are losing parking in front of their own homes, according to the chairwoman of the Neighbours of Nob Hill, who says new resident-exempt restrictions could free up streets.

The City of Nanaimo plans to post resident-exempt two-hour parking restrictions in three blocks around Nob Hill this December as part of a multi-year, $897,250 parking strategy.

City council approved new signage, as well as the first on-street parking rate hike in downtown Nanaimo in 10 years last August, as part of an effort to boost revenue, fill parkades and speed up turnover on busy streets.

The measures were set to roll out Oct. 1, but have run into speed bumps thanks to installation challenges, like the reprogramming of meters. The full range of downtown street stalls were charging drivers $1.25 an hour, a 50-cent increase, by the end of October, while new signage is expected to go up this December.

As part of its new approach to parking, the city has also begun a one-year pilot program to offer free and evening weekend parking at the Bastion Street parkade, changed parkade rates, and is looking to install a new $97,000 licence reader program by the end of the year.

The technology will bring the city’s total bill for parking changes to more than $159,000 for 2014.

The first phase of the parking strategy has its support, including from Jacquie Howardson, chairwoman of the Nob Hill neighbourhood association, who says new two-hour restrictions could free up spaces and benefit park users. Until now, non-residents have parked on both sides of the streets, limiting access to the local park and residents’ homes, she said.

“I think for Nob Hill Park it will be a very positive thing for people to have access,” she said.

Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association director Blake McGuffie said the recent on-street rate increases are “overdue” while president John Cooper points out they will encourage patrons to go into parkades for long-term stays, helping to make street stalls available for quick downtown visits.

But the duo also point out that action is missing.

McGuffie said the city should have a system that allows people to pay when they leave parkades, instead of seeing people pre-determine how long they will be doing business downtown. Cooper said the DNBIA has made recommendations to the city on parking but has yet to see them implemented, including free evenings and weekends in all parkades and surface lots except at the Port of Nanaimo Centre.

“The DNBIA supported the increase in fees only with the understanding these changes would also be reflected,” he said, adding they could take the issue from the city’s parking manager to the next level of decision-making.

As for Davidson, he says the new parking rate increases have only seen a few complaints.

“The reality is that I think people realize that … we are still quite a bit cheaper than Victoria and other major centers in the province,” he said.

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