A new plan to manage parking in downtown Whitehorse and eventually restrict free parking all day was well-received by city council Monday night, for the most part.
The 10-year plan also calls for more emphasis on transit use, cycling and walking as a means of reducing the demand for parking. It will go back to council next week for approval.
It's been in the works since January 2010, and has resulted in a 180-page report and 36 recommendations which several members of council applauded at last night's meeting.
Eric Schroff, on the other hand, cautioned the mayor and council about trying to fix something he says isn't broken.
The very research used to support the report, he insisted, indicates there is not a parking issue.
Forcing downtown employees to walk halfway across town from their place of work could ultimately have a negative impact, Schroff told council at the outset of the meeting.
He said if employees and employers are faced with rising costs and challenges to find all-day parking, employers may start looking to locate their businesses outside the downtown.
Making employees face $150 a month or $1,800 a year to buy space in public or private parking lots could punch a big hole in the amount of money a person has to spend on lunch or whatever, Schroff suggested.
All these initiatives and restrictions are being proposed, he said, when there really isn't a problem.
Schroff works on Rogers Street between Second and Third avenues.
There's never an issue finding parking on the street or nearby, though lunchtime can get a little crowded at times with the Northern Dragon restaurant at the end of the street, he told members of council.
Under the proposal coming down the pipe, however, Schroff won't be able to park in front of his place of work for more than two hours.
In fact, from Black Street south to the Yukon River, between Fourth Avenue and the riverfront, there'll be no all-day parking in five to 10 years, according to the proposed plan.
Parking throughout the entire area will be restricted to two hours, or one hour in the city core, including Main Street.
Restrictions have also been added west of Fourth Avenue which, for instance, would turn the all-day parking available on Wood Street into a two-hour maximum.
Schroff said the research into the new plan itself shows there's no issue, and there's not likely to be in the next 10 years.
But yet, he and others like him who depend on their vehicles for one reason or another – Schroff is a resident of Wolf Creek and the parent of two – will be forced to find parking considerable distances from their place of work.
Otherwise, he and others like him will be firing up their vehicle every couple of hours to move it.
That's not the best solution for the environment, he told council.
Schroff said walking halfway across town may be fine at some times of the year, but not at -30 C with a piercing wind.
If parking is an issue for those who live downtown and who can't find a parking spot in front of their own homes, then by all means, look at specific solutions, he suggested.
But implementing a blanket strategy that isn't supported by the numbers, Schroff insisted, is not the way to go.
City staff and the consultant who helped develop the parking plan explained in a briefing prior to the last night's meeting that the intent is not to implement street restrictions prior to promoting other strategies to reduce demand for parking.
One of the recommendations in the plan is to allow use of the $1.4-million fund reserved for parking initiatives to promote more use of the transit system and other means of sustainable transportation, it was pointed out.
They said one of the strategies is to find and promote more use of private or public parking lots before implementing the new restrictions.
Major employers, for instance, will be encouraged to implement their own transportation demand strategies, such as providing employees with the option of having the cost of monthly bus passes as an automatic payroll deduction.
Consultant Mike Skene of Boulevard Group from Victoria explained there'll be a 15-per-cent growth in demand for downtown parking spaces in the next 10 years.
The squeeze on parking, city planner Ben Campbell pointed out, was identified as a concern by the business community in the city's economic development workshop in 2009.
Skene said other than Main Street and First Avenue, there generally is not an issue finding parking currently.
The parking management plan, however, is not solely directed at talking about how many parking stalls the city will need, but also about having residents look at alternative methods of transportation, he said.
Skene said the number one strategy in the plan is to reduce demand, and how to go about reducing that demand, how to change habits.
Coun. Dave Austin pointed out last night he's spoken with a downtown resident who says he can never find a parking spot in front of his home.
The city is going to have to look sooner rather than later at a program to ensure downtown residents have parking available, said Coun. Doug Graham.