Don’t expect any major changes to parking around the South Okanagan Events Centre, like more parking spots or a parkade, in the near future.
An update to the 2015 South Okanagan Event Centre parking study came before Penticton city council at their Dec. 18 meeting.
Bregje Kozak, director of recreation and facilities, explained the recommendations are are broken into long, medium and short term — those would be items that can be completed in the next two to three years, like parking policies and traffic management.
Those include considering time limits on parking in the Community Centre and Memorial Arena lots.
“That is really to encourage turnover in the high demand areas. It would also encourage staff to park in different areas,” said Kozak.
While the study found that these lots were used the most, it also found that the more distant offsites lots were “largely unused” even during high traffic weekends and special events.
“The residential streets were impacted with parking before, during and after the event. Not only parking, but additional traffic through the neighbourhood,” said Kozak.
“We did see a lot of frustrated drivers before the event trying to figure out where to park, especially when a lot was full and having to back out and find out which lot was empty.”
Better signage, both to help people find their way around on-site, and to redirect traffic to approach via Westminster Avenue rather than the highways, is also recommended.
“It would also encourage people to park in other lots before they reach the high-demand areas,” said Kozak, adding that the final short-term recommendation is to add some crosswalks to increase pedestrian access.
Started last spring, the study was conducted to provide current information about parking capacity and demand at the busy complex, and address parking and traffic pressures on the site and in the surrounding area.
The city admitted in June that the December 2015 study underestimated the need for parking at the SOEC.
“The site is busier than the original estimate of eight to 10 nights per year. Activity levels are closer to one busy weekend each month plus several nights with higher than normal activity,” reads a City of Penticton news release, that accompanys the results of a survey that showed area residents were reporting problems finding parking.
The actual estimate in the parking study dated Dec. 2015 was for even fewer problem nights.
“On average, six nights a year required event attendees to find parking off-site,” reads the 2015 report, authored by James Donnelly of Urban Systems.
Kozak said the 2015 study wasn’t incorrect, it was based on future analysis.
“We just have better information now that we have the casino on site. The site is getting a lot busier than it was in 2015. We saw more events at the SOEC, more tournaments, more events at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre and, of course, now the casino,” she said.
The new study also proposes to increase parking supply over the next three to five years. These options include reconfiguring the curling club and community centre lots to add 32 spaces and developing new parking on the Eckhardt and Creston lots to add 72 spaces.
“The options proposed for the short term would make better use of the space we have today at a lower cost and impact to the community,” said Kozak.
“With the high cost to develop new parking, these options would need to be considered in the next few years to allow for proper budgeting and prioritization against other city initiatives.”
A parkade has been included amongst the options for the long-term or beyond five years.
“We received a lot of feedback that people would like to see a parkade at the site,” says Kozak. “This is something that could be considered in the long term but our hope is that some of the other options provide the relief people are hoping for before we make this investment.”
The study also recommends further work to develop transportation demand options such as improvements to transit and shuttle services, more accessibility options as well as infrastructure for cycling. The city is planning additional workshops to confirm plans for transportation demand management options.
The complete report and a copy of the study findings are now available at penticton.ca.
Council is being asked to receive the report for information and will make a decision on the recommendations through the budget process, which will not begin until January.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
Email me or message me on Facebook
Follow us on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram