CORRECTION: The print edition of this article incorrectly implied that downtown pay parking has a minimum of $2 payment. In fact, you can put coins into the pay machine. A quarter, or 25 cents will pay for seven minutes of parking. There is also an app, Passport Parking Canada that can be downloaded to allow you pay anywhere you are without having to walk to a pay machine. However, there is a 20 cent fee to use the app. The Western News apologizes for this error.
The new pay parking on Main Street is serving as a double whammy to small businesses already hit hard by the pandemic.
Claire Keys, owner of Teas and Weaves in the 200 block of Main Street, said the pay parking was felt immediately after it was implemented and enforced by bylaw officers.
“It’s noticeably reduced revenue but also with customers voicing their displeasure and frustration when they only want to pick up a phone order for a bag of tea which is $5,” Keys said.
“They feel penalized to pay an extra charge. I have heard many customers saying they will shop somewhere else or online.
“I like to think our downtown is a welcoming and pleasant environment, but paid parking has changed this.”
Accent Chocolates in downtown Penticton says revenue is down 50 per cent since the paid parking went into effect.
Chocolatier Eva Pölöskey said customers are also confused about how to pay for parking without actual meters outside.
“People just want to throw money into a meter,”she said.
“There are a lot of seniors who don’t have apps and use smartphones.”
The pay machines that are along Main Street are spaced out about a block apart so they are hard to find, she said.
Pölöskey and the owner of the neighbouring consignment clothing store Polka Dot Purse Consignment said customers are getting frustrated.
“The reason for using the pay machines (versus standalone meters) on Main Street is that they fit in better aesthetically with the new revitalization work,” said Blake Laven, city director of development services.
The Book Shop has also said the pay parking is turning customers away.
“People don’t want to put $2 into pay parking to buy a $5 book,” said Lisette Stevenson, of The Book Shop.
Already hit by the travel restrictions limiting visitors to Penticton, the pay parking has been an added issue for the iconic book shop, said Stevenson.
Teas and Weaves had a successful curbside pick up system with regular tea buyers phoning in their orders in advance and coming to pick them up.
Keys also suggests that the two parking spots that are used by bylaw officers be used as free 15-minute parking for pick-up customers of downtown businesses.
“The bylaw officers are vigilant and doing their job but they are also off-putting to customers, and when tourists can come back I feel it is not the best way to greet them,” Keys noted.
The City of Penticton is anticipating big money from all the pay parking throughout the city.
For 2021, the city budgeted $900,000 from metered and pay station revenues for on-street and lot parking. This increase is based on the increased rates of moving to $2 an hour, expanding metered parking on Main, Ellis and Front streets and the elimination of the one hour free parking downtown, said Jim Bauer, City of Penticton chief financial officer.
Prior to the pandemic and before the new pay parking went into effect, the city collected $308,000 in revenues for paid parking in 2019, said Bauer. “We are continuing to monitor parking revenues but remain hopeful to recognize these parking revenues levels in 2021 with the recently announced provincial reopening plan,” he added.
The expansion of the parking program saw the use of both meter heads, which were deployed on Ellis Street, Front Streets and side streets and pay machines, which were deployed in the parking lots and on Main Street.
The pay machines is relatively user-friendly and you don’t have to walk back to your car to put a receipt on the dash, said Laven.
The city encourages people to use the passport.ca app, the easiest way to pay and lets you know when your time is running out.