Yellowknife, NWT – The City of Yellowknife says there is “no shortage of parking” downtown.
New parking meters have been appearing in the city, each with a two-hour parking limit. City plans call for two more waves of meter installations – this time with nine-hour limits – in 2015 and 2016.
However, there are no plans for more downtown parking lots. Nor will payment by mobile phone be coming to the meters for the foreseeable future, with the city promising a long-term permit scheme instead.
“Paying via mobile phone is not an option,” director of planning Jeff Humble told Moose FM.
“Looking forward, we are going to be establishing a program for folks who do park on an everyday basis to buy an annual pass. That pass will be discounted from the full meter rate over a full year.”
Humble said the annual downtown pass would most likely be introduced by early 2015. Yellowknife mayor Mark Heyck, tweeting in response to a question about the lack of pay-by-phone meters, said the city’s climate “can apparently be challenging” for such systems.
— Mark Heyck (@MarkHeyck) September 18, 2014
According to Humble, the new two-hour meters are a response to the concerns of local businesses.
“We heard clearly from the business community that they would like to see the installation of these meters,” he said.
“The trend has been for people working downtown, employees in office buildings for example, to come and park in front of these businesses for the full day.”
Eighteen downtown businesses were sent letters by the city, asking for their views, before plans to install the meters were drawn up.
Nine replied to say they wanted the meters, eight did not respond and were assumed by the city to have no objection, and one – Bruno’s Pizza – responded to decline the introduction of meters outside the store.
Humble said a public consultation about parking took place in 2012, involving a survey of 400 randomly selected residents, and the new meters – and planned introduction of more meters in 2015 or 2016 – are a result of these consultations with residents and businesses.
“In fact, there is not a shortage of parking in the downtown,” said Humble. “If you look at the counts we did [while measuring parking usage in the city], some streets had 50% vacancy.”
Humble believes the option of a new downtown parking lot could be explored, but only once redevelopment on vacant downtown lots reaches an advanced stage, which would be some years away.
Funds from the new meters are going into the city’s “general fund” with 25% currently allocated to a downtown reserve, put towards the area’s revitalization.
Though it may not placate commuters frustrated by the new meters, the city is also pushing its new-look public transit network as an alternative.
Public transit in Yellowknife will be free on Monday, September 22 as part of World Car-Free Day.
“We think it’s a great opportunity for residents to try our new buses which got on the road a few weeks ago,” Heyck told Moose FM.
“We’ve got new routes that are easier and more efficient to take – quicker for people. We feel that if people try it out, they may really enjoy it and choose to leave their car at home more often.
“We’ve tried to make the system much more efficient and that’s what these new routes do. There’s a 20-minute travel time, down considerably from what we had previously.”
CJCD Moose FM News