There is a motion on the Nanaimo Council agenda for the Monday December 15, 2014 meeting regarding downtown Nanaimo parking. DNBIA (Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Association) is requesting free on-street parking on Saturdays downtown and in the Old City Quarter for a one year trial period. Also, DNBIA suggested there be free parking in the evenings after 6pm and weekends for all City owned parking lots downtown such as the Bastion Street Parkade (except the Conference Centre parkade and the Harbourfront parkade). **
This is to find out if free parking will increase the number of people coming to downtown Nanaimo on weekends.
In August 2014, plans were made to raise parking rates and put in 500 additional parking meters in the Old City Quarter and on other streets including Commercial Street. This parking plan will cost almost $900,000 to be phased in over the next few years.
Part of this plan is for a $97,000 licence plate recognition system. A person can download open source licence plate recognition software for free.
Metered parking has gone up from $.50 per hour to $1.25 per hour. Rates have gone up from $3 to $9 for 12-hour parking at the City’s Cavan, Wallace and Wentworth street parking lots. To promote the use of off-street parkades the rate is $.75 for two hours.
The highest demand for parking in downtown Nanaimo is Monday to Friday during daytime hours. The maximum allowable time is 2 hours for on-street parking.
Currently, the City is paying a company about $50,000 per year to collect money from parking meters. The City reports to be collecting about $12,000 per month. There are currently 285 metered stalls.
Will people continue to go downtown during the weekdays as frequently as they do now?
Also, there is the ongoing maintenance of the parkades. The City recently spent $200,000 on repair work at the Bastion Street Parkade.
Unfortunately, the City’s parking rates don’t cover the costs of maintenance and building the parkades in the first place.
What will happen when the new hotels get built downtown? Where will everyone park? Where will the people who work downtown park their cars?
How steep are the challenges for merchants in downtown Nanaimo? Just from scanning the streets, it looks like there are still lots of vacant shops downtown.
Thinking outside the Box
People will go to where parking is free and easy. There is lots of free and easy parking at all the malls in Nanaimo. The challenge will be to offer something different. This requires people to think outside the box.
What about turning the downtown into a pedestrian and cycling zone? What about free bus shuttles from the hospital to downtown or the ferries during the summer? Get people downtown hassle-free.
**Nanaimo Council voted to approve the DNBIA request for free Saturday and evening parking.