The City of Penticton is starting out on their promised new parking study for the South Okanagan Events Centre complex, now that Cascades Casino has been operating for over a year.
Urban Systems has again been hired to update the study they conducted in 2015. Urban Systems actually submitted two studies that year, one in September and another in December replacing the September version, which contained factual errors, including overestimating the number of parking spots along Power Street and underestimating the number of fans attending Vees games.
The report’s conclusion remained the same though: with more than 1,000 parking spaces on site, there is sufficient parking at the SOEC for the majority of the year and on occasions where a major event is taking place, there are another 1,000 spaces in lots and on the streets within a five to 10-minute walk.
The same study contained a drawing showing the Penticton Curling Club being replaced by additional parking for the casino, which the city said was just a holdover from a concept that was discussed and discarded as not viable.
“We want to keep the curling rink and the visitor centre because they are too expensive to move and there is no real upside,” said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit in December 2015.
Over the last year, there has been some discussion in the community over whether there actually is enough available parking.
The new parking study was included in this year’s budget as a result of feedback from the community, as well as the need to update the information available about parking in support of the work on the business case for the vision for Penticton’s arenas.
“The main purpose of this study is to identify solutions to make the site operate more effectively and better utilize the parking we have available,” said Bregje Kozak, recreation and facilities director.
Work on the update is getting underway this week and is expected to take up to five months to complete. The study will update the inventory of on-site and off-site parking, collect data about parking use on a typical weekday as well as during busy weekends and events, identify the challenges and gaps for pedestrians and offer suggestions to improve wayfinding.
Recognizing that parking at the site has been an important topic of discussion for the community, the city is inviting residents to be part of the study. Two surveys on shapeyourcitypenticton.ca will run from May 23 to June 13 to gather feedback from customers or visitors of the SOEC as well as residents in the surrounding areas.
Citizens who register and complete the survey will be entered into a draw for one of three prizes of $50 of free parking at any city meter or lot applied as a credit through the city’s Passport Parking app. Paper copies of the survey are available at city hall and the library. The results of the surveys, as well as preliminary findings of the study, will be shared at an open house in the next few months.
“In some ways, it is a good problem to have. The combination of the facilities on the SOEC site has created a busy entertainment and recreation hub but it has also created more pressure on parking for customers as well as residents in the area,” said Jakubeit in a release. “Council is looking forward to seeing the results of the study and hearing the ideas from residents on how we can make traffic and parking at the complex work better for everyone.”
The city has also posted a frequently asked questions document, including the expectations of the Cascades Casino.
“We know that some residents have questions about what the requirements were for the casino and having a common understanding of this information will be helpful as we start to look for solutions to improve parking on site,” said Jakubeit.
The focus of the survey is on operational improvements to address current activity levels since the Cascades Casino opened, but the study will also provide the data needed to plan for parking at the complex should the city move forward with the vision for the future of the SOEC developed by the Arena Task Force and endorsed by council this past July.
“This parking study will provide some of the data needed to plan for parking at the complex should the city move forward with the vision for the future of the arenas,” said Kozak.
Earlier this year, Jakubeit suggested one way to increase the number of parking spots would be to reconfigure the exit to Eckhardt Avenue in front of the arena, the use of which is restricted.
“Those are kind of a waste of space,” he said. A parkade, however, is not likely.
“Everyone wants a parkade to be built, but no one actually wants to pay when they use the parkade,” said Jakubeit at the time.
He added that parkades are expensive, and the parking study is looking at what else the city can do to address parking needs.
An April web poll by the Western News seemed to bear out Jakubeit’s opinion, with about 55 per cent of the respondents saying they wouldn’t be willing to pay to use a parkade.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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