Effective immediately, parking is free in downtown Penticton.
At Tuesday’s meeting, city council voted unanimously to give a reprieve to pay parking from Dec. 7 to March 31.
That includes the new pay parking on Main Street and the existing meter parking across the downtown. The parking will turn into two-hour free parking instead.
The motion was brought forward by Coun. Ryan Graham.
“For the economic viability of the downtown, the increased cost of goods and inflation, I strongly believe a three-month reprieve of pay parking will help,” said Graham. “We have an opportunity to help them survive during this difficult time.”
The loss of parking revenue will cost the city around $200,000 for that time, said city staff. Parking revenue goes directly to pay for the bylaw department and the increase in hiring there, staff noted.
Meter parking on Front and Westminster has existed for some time but it wasn’t until 2021 when a pay parking was implemented on Main Street.
Council heard from staff that the city made a “significant” investment in parking machines on Main Street. Paid parking was implemented during the pandemic and Main Street retail businesses said they felt an immediate hit.
Gratify, a downtown cafe in the 500-block of Main Street, called for an end to paid parking in an open letter to the city last week after receiving a ticket and said it has discouraged people from visiting their business.
In a recent survey, they asked people how Gratify can improve its services. The business found that “parking” was referenced the most. There were 487 respondents.
Letters from both Downtown Penticton BIA and the Chamber have gone against paid parking in the city’s downtown core.
City planner Blake Laven played a role in implementing the paid parking machines on Main Street.
Penticton introduced pay parking in April 2021, dishing out $286,000 for the installation of 160 parking meters and 19 pay machines. They were nearly $100,000 over budget. Since then, drivers have had to pay $2 per hour from Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m
On Tuesday, Laven told council that he didn’t believe giving a reprieve would help the economy of downtown.
“Removing paid parking will not bring a boom to businesses downtown,” said Laven. For the revenue we are going to lose in that time, we could provide free transit to downtown.”
He said pay parking is a “very efficient way to turn over customer parking.” He said having bylaw chalk tires now will be “incredibly labour intensive.”
Coun. Campbell Watt said that when Main Street did have two-hour free parking, the spaces were filled by staff of the businesses. He believes that will happen again during this parking reprieve.
“I’m a big proponent of pay parking because it encourages other modes of transportation but I will support this reprieve because we are seeing inflation and downturn in our economy,” said coun. Isaac Gilbert.
The mayor and Graham both said this pause in paid parking is a good time to review the whole concept of paid parking.
“I’m a supporter of paid parking. I’m a senior, I have the app on my phone and find it to be quite slick. Nothing is perfect. We have the ability to review the parking situation and we should take this opportunity to review best practices,” said Mayor Julius Bloomfield.
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