Penticton got a taste of how the latest South Okanagan Events Centre parking study is going with the release of results from the survey portion this week.
The survey ran for about a month, from May 23 to June 13, with 54 responses from neighbouring residents and 800 from visitors coming from farther afield.
Predictably, only a small number of respondents were willing to tick off the box for “it is easy to find parking.” The highest number, 123, said it was easy to find parking on Mondays. That fell into the 70s on Friday and Sunday, dropping to low of 52 on Saturdays.
Most disagreed with the statement it is easy to find parking during special events. Residents in the area were overwhelmingly concerned about finding on-street parking especially during special events, where only four of the 54 surveyed indicated they didn’t have a problem.
“I think this first step validated some of that anecdotal commentary,” said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit. Problems with parking at the SOEC have been a major discussion in the community since the Cascade Casino was added to the campus last year.
The report on the survey results admits that the 2015 report was based on estimates. Now that the casino has been operating for a year, there is a better handle on usage.
“The site is busier than the original estimate of 8 to 10 nights per year. Activity levels are closer to one busy weekend each month plus several nights with higher than normal activity,” reads the City of Penticton release.
In fact, the original estimate in the previous parking study, dated Dec. 2015, was for even fewer problem nights.
“On average, six nights a year require event attendees to find parking off-site,” reads the 2015 report authored by James Donnelly of Urban Systems. It goes on to state “Over the last several years, facility staff have indicated that on-site parking is sufficient with the exception of the six weekends a year when multiple events are taking place”
The majority of the survey respondents were in favour of building a parkade on the SOEC campus. It’s an idea Jakubeit has spoken against, arguing the cost, which he estimates at $35,000 per stall, is too expensive.
Jakubeit was correct when he said most people wouldn’t want to pay to use a parkade. Around 300 agreed with the idea of charging, while almost 400 said don’t charge.
The mayor noted these were preliminary results, and he wasn’t sure if the pros and cons of a parkade solution would be included in the final report, along with other scenarios, like reorienting existing parking or closing part of Alberni Street to use for parking.
“We’ve purchased existing lots there. How does that factor in if we make that into parking?” said Jakubeit. “Is there a way of being more effective with some sort of shuttle program when we have bigger events.”
Jakubeit said a final report may be ready in September for city council and staff. Over the next couple of months, he expects the study to focus on the suggestions and solutions, “costing out everything from a parkade to reconfiguring elements.”
One of the suggestions, removing the portables used as a temporary home for Penticton’s visitors’ centre, is already in progress.
“They are in the process of being moved this week,” said Jakubeit, adding that even if it takes until next week to finish the removal, there will be more spots open for the next major event, the John Fogerty concert on July 15.
“I think there are some short-term measures we will try to explore, and this report should help vet the feasibility and validity of some of the options,” said Jakubeit.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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