West End parking: Paul Juzkow reports on research, comments on City’s responses. Council decision coming soon.

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Nine recommendations by City staff to solve parking problems in the West End. The public should have a chance to speak to Mayor and City Council when the topic comes up in the fall of 2016.

A year ago, West End residents learned that the City of Vancouver was consulting the public and looking for solutions to parking problems in the West End. In July 2016 we learned that staff had issued nine recommendations, including a 700% percent increase in resident parking permit fees.

Paul Juzkow, a twenty-five year resident of the West End, has spent a lot of time and effort investigating the issues, taking notes and making observations, corresponding with City Hall, and talking to community members on the topic of parking issues and the nine recommendations. He has kindly shared with us some excerpts of responses from the City, plus his own comments and observations. We are happy to post them here, noting that the opinions are his. See our July 14 post for his earlier comments, plus links to media coverage (Resident critiques City’s bulletin on new West End parking policy recommendations after public outcry).

The consultation process has basically ended, and City staff are expected to submit their report to City Council this fall. That will be the public’s last and only real chance to speak to Mayor and Council, your elected officials, on this topic.

Anyone who will be affected by the proposed parking changes in the West End, now is the time to prepare to communicate with Mayor and Council (once the meeting date is set and documents are available).

Nine recommendations from the City:

  1. Charge market-based rates for new parking permits
  2. Keep existing permit holders on the same rates
  3. Create a parking benefit district
  4. Divide the permit zone
  5. Unlock unused parking
  6. Improve parking enforcement and driving alternatives
  7. Let visitors park in residential spaces when it’s less busy
  8. Add parking meters to some visitor parking spaces
  9. Convert some residential parking to visitor parking

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West End Parking Changes Update
By Paul Juzkow, October 18, 2016

The City replied to me on an email that I had sent listing my evaluation of the City’s 9 recommendations regarding parking in the West End (I am “against” 1, 4, 8, 9, “for” 5 and 7, and “neutral” on 2, 3, and 6). (See full details on the City’s web page, http://vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/west-end-parking-strategy.aspx). My comments are based on what I heard from residents of the West End and some of my own ideas. In this post I share the responses I received from the City, and my comments on each one.

Additionally, many people have asked me to comment on the Mobi Bicycles. At the bottom, I share some thoughts about the impacts of the Mobi bike-sharing system, Construction, and Movie Filming, on parking in the West End.

RESPONSES FROM CITY OF VANCOUVER, AND COMMENTS BY PAUL JUZKOW

Recommendation 1: “Charge market-based rates for new parking permits”
City: “The price increase is intended to reduce the difference in cost between on-street and off-street parking. $50/month would fall near the low end of off-street parking prices in the West End. The risk in implementing a smaller increase, or series of smaller increases is that it wouldn’t achieve the goal of equalizing the cost of parking choices in the neighbourhood.”

Paul: My position is “against.” The City doesn’t even mention my main objection, i.e. that this will decease affordability in the neighbourhood. We are going to make our neighbourhood way less affordable to save some residents “5 minutes and over 1 km of extra driving.” I think residents would pick affordability over the 5 extra minutes any day!

Also, the City also doesn’t mention that this dramatic increase goes against the City Council approved Transportation 2040 plan which states the intent would be to “gradually raise prices.” 700% is not a gradual increase!

Recommendation 3: “Create a parking benefit district”
City: “Regarding the re-investment of parking revenues in a West End benefit district: Our recommendations will be part of a council report that will fully state our intentions on this issue. More details on the benefit district and potential ways to create or enhance West End amenities will be available moving forward.”

Paul: My position is “neutral.” If the City does proceed with these parking changes it could result in up to $5 million more collected from parking permits and meters. We would want this money spent in the West End! From the response it sounds like this will be recommended.

Recommendation 4: “Divide the permit zone”
City: “The intention of our community parking passes is to ensure that residents have convenient on-street parking options close to their home. We understand that some West End residents enjoy the benefit of using their pass for shopping, visiting friends, or medical appointments, but this can equally be a disadvantage for residents who live near St. Paul’s or other commercial areas. Also note that the West End is the largest parking district in the City and a zone reduction would make it more comparable to other areas.”

Paul: My position is “against.” Most of the benefits such as medical appointments would be during the day when there is less pressure on parking. Just to “make it more comparable to other areas” is not a reason to break up the zone. The City’s response made no mention of the fact that this will cause an increase in parking right next to the new zone boundaries (Davie St and Denman St). Splitting the zones will make the parking situation worse around Davie St and Denman St.

Recommendation 5: “Unlock Unused Parking”
City: “Regarding your comment that our estimation of underused off-street parking is based on ‘hearsay’: We gathered data by studying residential building plans for the majority of the West End and conferred with major property managers to determine the number of off-street parking spaces. We compared this information with ICBC data on registered vehicles in the West End and came up with a reasonable estimate of unused spaces. “

Paul: My position is “for.” I take back my comment that it was ‘hearsay.’ It does look like the City did use real numbers to estimate the unused parking. From my building’s experience, the parking is fairly empty during the day on weekdays and full in the evenings. So, it seems also to be a peak period issue. Any unlocking of unused parking is a good thing and this initiative should go forward.

Paul’s suggestion that parking is a peak-period problem… maybe have peak/non-peak permits
City: “Your suggestion that West End parking has much to do with peak periods is well taken and we are looking to incorporate this into our recommendations to improve visitor parking once on-street space has been freed up with pricing and other tools.”

Paul: I suggested that the real parking problem is a peak problem. There aren’t enough spots when people come home from work. The City’s response implies they are going to raise price first without dealing with the main issue.

Paul’s other proposals to improve the parking situation
City: “Thank you for your other ideas and suggestions, as they will continue to shape our recommendations moving forward.”

Paul: I don’t believe that my other ideas and suggestions will shape the recommendations at all. My guess is that the Transportation department will proceed with all 9 of their recommendations with no changes. My proposals included not allowing permit holders to park in visitor parking, limiting the number of passes in high-congestion areas, educating existing permit holders, changing building codes, and some out of the box ideas. Why not try some different ideas out before raising prices over 700%?

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ADDITIONAL TOPICS: MOBI, CONSTRUCTION, AND MOVIE FILMING EFFECTS ON PARKING IN WEST END

1. Mobi Bicycle stations’ effects on parking spots in West End
Many people asked for my opinion about the Mobi bicycle stations taking up parking spots in the West End. I am generally in favour of having a bicycle share program and sharing some parking spots with bicycles. The main negative that I have is that no bicycle share program has ever made money and most have lost a significant amount of money. Rather than lose money, I would rather the money went to help with the affordability, homeless and mental health problems in the city.

To access the impact of the Mobi Bicycle stations, I went to all fifteen bicycle stations in the West End to estimate how many parking spots were taken up by them. My estimate is that there were ten metered, sixteen 2-hour, and five permit spots taken up by these fifteen Mobi Bicycle stations. [That would be a total of 31 spots.] So, by far, the 2-hour visitor parking was the most affected by the Mobi Bicycle station installations. Maybe this is why the City made such a big deal about not enough visitor parking in the recent parking recommendations.

About the Mobi Bicycle stations I have probably heard the most comments about their placement and location than the actual loss of parking spaces.

  • The placement of large bicycle stations near existing bicycle rental shops was just terrible and showed the City would hurt existing businesses to try to make the Mobi Bicycle share program successful.
  • The placement of a bicycle station on the sidewalk on Robson Street at Denman Street is very unpopular with elderly people because there is also a pop-up dress store there and they are worried about getting knocked down.
  • I heard only one complaint from a couple that uses car share and were upset about the loss of parking spots at the Chilco St. at Robson St. station. They said that there was a lack of spaces in the area and this was not a good spot to place the station.

In general, I think that the placement of the Mobi bicycle stations was fairly well done with most being on the side of buildings and some off the street (e.g. Denman Mall). Time will tell if the bicycle share will be a success or not.

On another note, I am surprised that more of the bicycles have not already been stolen! There still seem to be most of the bicycles around. A few weeks ago, I did find one abandoned Mobi Bicycle in the West End. I called Mobi and they came and picked it up. So, I saved the City $2000, the cost of one bicycle!

2. Construction effects on parking spots in West End

I didn’t realize that there was a big impact to parking spots from new construction in the West End until I passed the new church/condo being built on Thurlow near Davie Street. Since the building is on the end of a block, the construction has eliminated parking on three sides, which would include about 10 to 15 spaces (my estimate) of permit and metered parking. Additionally, the old building had a parking lot which was used by the church and daycare. In addition to the parking spaces, the construction work frequently uses an additional lane of Thurlow Street, causing minor traffic delays, instead of using the side street.

So, these parking spots will be lost for a number of years during construction. With multiple buildings current being built and many more planned, we could be looking at the multi-year loss of many parking spots and parking lots (for example, Safeway and London Drugs lots on Davie St.). The only thing we can hope for is speedy construction to bring back our lost parking!

3. Movie/TV filming effects on parking spots in West End

This summer, I noticed a huge pick up in movie/TV filming in the West End. There didn’t seem to be a week go by without some filming going on. I think that this is great for the economy, but I think that the amount of parking reserved for some of these film shoots is a lot. A recent film shoot had most of five blocks (albeit three were short blocks) reserved for an entire day. But when the film shoot was cancelled due to rain, the parking was not freed up. I had to call the producers to send somebody to take down the no parking signs. I just hope that the City and film producers will be aware of our parking issue, only reserve the amount of parking they really require, and release it as soon as they are done with it.

Conclusion

There are lots of demands on parking in the West End and it is a complex issue. I appreciate that the City took time to respond to our concerns about their proposals. The response that I received did not indicate that the transportation department of the City is going to change any of its nine original recommendations in any way in response to the feedback from citizens of the West End. Especially, I am still very concerned about the permit price increase making the West End less affordable in the future.

Please keep an eye out for the recommendations and when it will be put forward to City Council so we can speak before council.

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