City doubles parking rates downtown
Time is up for Kamloops’ fleet of parking meters.
Kamloops city council has approved a package of parking reforms for the downtown that will see the city’s 850 coin-operated meters swapped out for 90 digital pay stations and parking fees increased to $1 per hour from 50 cents.
But, after residents raised concerns about the cost of the plan — about $1.7 million — at a public meeting last week, the city has revised how it will pay for the changes.
Instead of borrowing the cash for the pay hubs over a 10-year period, which would add $390,000 in interest to the cost of the project, council voted to pay back a loan on the project in five years, which reduces interest costs to just over $60,000.
Coun. Tina Lange called the more aggressive timeline a “great compromise.”
While many at the public meeting asked council to hike meter rates now to collect enough money to pay for the new stations at once, Lange said the move would turn off some shoppers.
“People need to get some value out of that increase in rates,” she said, arguing the new stations, which accept credit cards and allow motorists to pay for parking with their smartphones, offer that value.
Councillors Donovan Cavers and Marg Spina weren’t so sure the city should go full speed ahead on the new technology.
Cavers wanted to see a more “hybrid” approach to parking that would phase the machines in slowly.
“I guess my concern is, what if it doesn’t work?” Spina added.
“What if we do this and we have this big investment of 90 pay-by-licence-plate kiosks and it doesn’t work?”
She suggested the city raise the rate on its meters immediately, then use the extra cash it collects to purchase enough pay stations to run a test program on a few high-traffic blocks of Victoria Street.
However, other councillors believe the kiosks are already proven technology.
“I’ve used kiosks in Holland and Ottawa and Vancouver and I think we’re ready for them in Kamloops,” Coun. Nancy Bepple said.
Coun. Arjun Singh said that, while he’s been frustrated by pay-station experiences at Royal Inland Hospital, he hasn’t heard the same concerns reported about similar kiosks at the Tournament Capital Centre and in off-street lots around the city.
He also pointed out changes council were voting on were originally raised by downtown business owners and pitched by the Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association.
“I really thought long about whether this technology is good and I’ve also relied on the people who have the most to lose, the most to gain — the downtown businesses,” Singh said.
“If people stop parking downtown, they’re screwed.”
Council voted to install the pay stations by a margin of seven to two, with Spina and Cavers opposed.
City staff said the pay stations, which will go to tender, should be in place in about six months.