Changes on the way for people looking for a place to park in downtown Kelowna - InfoNews

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Changes on the way for people looking for a place to park in downtown Kelowna

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November 07, 2018 - 5:30 PM

KELOWNA - Renting an extra parking spot like renting an extra room on Airbnb, and charging more for longer stays may make downtown Kelowna an easier place for drivers to visit.

The City of Kelowna is looking for public feedback on its latest vision of parking rules before taking the final plan to council in the New Year.

One option being considered is having people rent out legal parking spots.

“It’s kind of the parking version of the Airbnb question,” the city's parking services manager Dave Duncan told iNFOnews.ca. “We wanted to gauge the level of support and to gauge whether we wanted to pursue it or not.”

The idea is that people with existing driveways that are big enough for two or three cars may want to rent out some of that space if they’re not using it. That might work best on event nights where parking is harder to find closer to venues like Prospera Place.

There may also be opportunities in multi-family complexes where vacant stalls could be rented on a monthly basis.

“How we tried to structure that question (on residential rentals) is that it’s “legal” stalls,” Duncan said. “We don’t want to see people paving their front yard and making a parking lot.”

He’s heard of apps in places like Vancouver where users can access key codes for parking in secure garages.

Duncan is also looking at increasing the existing two-hour time limit for on street parking to three hours but charge twice the hourly rate (now mostly $1.25 per hour) for the extra hour.

Currently, the majority of on-street parking is used for about 1.3 hours so it would be rare for someone to want the third hour. But, businesses have told the city that some appointments last more than two hours so customers are facing a $30 fine if their meter expires.

Not that there are going to be many parking meters left.

Out of more than 3,000 parking stalls downtown, about 900 have coin meters but those are likely to be phased out over the next three years or so.

“We hear more and more people are not carrying coins,” Duncan said. While single stall metres that accept credit cards are available, they are expensive to operate as fees are charged for each transaction so the trend is towards pay stations.

One complaint about the pay stations is that the minimum time available is one hour.

The philosophy in Kelowna has been to keep the charge for using a credit card the same as for cash. But, again, there are fees charged by the credit card companies, so if too short a time is allowed, it would actually cost the city to provide that service. One solution may be to charge a premium for a shorter stay.

Even credit cards are becoming an old technology as at least 10 per cent of people are using the city’s parking app.

“As soon as someone use the app once, they don’t go back to using metres again,” Duncan said.

In the peak summer usage month of August, 37,000 transactions were done using the parking app, up from 22,000 in 2017.

One of the other things the city is trying to do is change perceptions about the availability of parking downtown, arguing there is more space than people think, although it may mean walking a bit further. Still, that may be no different than parking at Orchard Park Mall.

“If you overlaid Orchard Park over the downtown core, you would find it’s quite similar,” Duncan said. “But, when you get downtown you have blocks and corners and intersections. If you park two blocks away it feels like you’ve walked quite a distance.”

It is possible to park for $1 an hour for as many hours as needed in any one of three city-owned parkades downtown. Most of the main downtown shopping area – from Harvey to Clement and Richter to Okanagan Lake – can be reached within three minutes of one of the parkades.

The Chapman Parkade, with 428 stalls on Lawrence near Pandosy, is the oldest and most popular parkade, with some people waiting a year to get a reserved stall.

There’s only a three-week wait in the Library Parkade, which is a mere six-minute walk from Chapman. It has 460 stalls and is just off Ellis and Doyle.

The newest parkade is Memorial (off Ellis south of Doyle) but it only has 130 stalls (out of 566) open to the public during the day since the rest are reserved for Interior Health. It does have some reserved spots, but as they become vacant they won’t be leased out so there is more room for casual users.

What Memorial does offer is more room during the evenings on event nights.

The parkades are free most nights but have a $5 flat fee on event nights. At this point, there is still surplus capacity on those nights, even in the Library Parkade.

Some adjustments in hours are also proposed with parkades likely to stop charging at 5 p.m. while street parking will extend the pay period from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.

People are being asked to respond on line at the city's Get Involved website by Nov. 28 since there won’t be any public meeting to review the proposed changes.

It seems that, while thousands of people are interested in the topic, they don’t actually want to try to find a parking spot for a face-to-face meeting.

“When we did the initial consultation last fall, we held an open house at the Laurel and had 46 people,” Duncan said. “When we did the on-line piece, 3,248 people participated. Normally we would hold another open house. What we’re doing now is meant to be an on-line open house.”


To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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