Penticton maps out parking strategy

Parking fees will be charged during certain events at SOEC, while large areas of the city will be reserved for resident-only parking

Penticton council got a surprise Christmas present this week in the form of its first official, city-wide parking strategy.

Anthony Haddad, director of development services, introduced the strategy, which includes large areas of the city marked for resident-only parking, boat trailer parking fees at the Skaha Marina, and paid parking at the South Okanagan Events Centre during some events.

Money generated through the parking fees, said Haddad, could be used for projects and improvements in the area of the city where it is generated. Startup costs for the first year of the strategy are $271,000, with an estimated return between $95,000 to $220,000.

Parking at the SOEC will generate significant revenue. With an operating budget of $10,000, parking fees are estimated to create about $75,000 revenue.

“It was always planned, it was in the budget process when the events centre came on, and if I remember correctly, there was $400,000 in overall parking that would have been applicable, but the city decided to take it out,” said Mayor Dan Ashton.

Now, he continued, the city is looking at some special events as an opportunity to raise extra funds.

Public input is always welcome, said Ashton, but there will be no formal public information session to gather opinions.

“We didn’t concoct this overnight, this has been an ongoing discussion, and we have had input,” said Ashton. “I think this is going to be a benefit to citizens overall.”

Chuck Loewen, director of recreation, said they expect to be charging for parking at the SOEC for a dozen major events over the course of the year.

“Not Vees games or any of those other types, but some major concert events, special events, that kind of thing,” said Loewen, adding that the parking will apply to the entire complex, including the lot on the Power Street side.

While SOEC staff will be used to manage the parking, the revenue will benefit the city, not Global Spectrum, who hold the contract for managing the SOEC complex, including the trade and convention centre.

“The revenues that are received there will either reduce our subsidy further or get moved right into general revenue at the city here. We haven’t decided exactly how those revenues are going to flow yet,” said Loewen.

The marina at the southeast corner of Skaha Lake Park is also targeted. Haddad estimates it would only cost $500 to implement paid boat trailer parking, and would generate roughly $20,000.

Existing parking downtown will also be looked at, according to Haddad. The strategy includes replacing parking meters in the Ellis and Robinson Street paid lots. While there are no changes planned to the current rates, Haddad estimates $50,000 could be recovered by using new technology to stop the abuse of the one-hour free parking vouchers.

The current machines, he said, do not have the ability to restrict the vouchers to one time per user. About 140,000 free vouchers have been issued for 2012, up from 40,000 during the first few years of the program.

“There has been no significant indicator that would contribute to this increase other than users constantly printing out the free vouchers,” said Haddad.

While downtown Penticton is a prominent area for employment, festivals and tourism, Haddad said the compact and easily walkable nature of the downtown puts the services and shops within five to 10 minutes walking distance of the surrounding residential area, outside of downtown’s paid parking lots.

“These surrounding residential areas often feel the brunt of paid parking requirements and need to be considered when reviewing a new strategy,” said Haddad.

The parking strategy identifies a wide swath of residential area bordered roughly by Eckhardt, the Channel Parkway and Government Street as potential resident-only parking areas, as well as several blocks surrounding Skaha Lake Park.