The subject of waterfront parking is one that successive White Rock councils have struggled with for years.
The fact is there is no easy answer to setting rates and limits on parking along the Marine Drive strip – particularly as shortage of supply and the very existence of pay parking has frequently been blamed for any and all business hardships.
The current council, hewing to the well-intentioned efforts of a parking task force chaired by Coun. Christopher Trevelyan, is contemplating more free parking during weekdays in winter months following on the heels of this year’s decision to try a blanket free parking policy in February and March.
Yet, as Coun. David Chesney has suggested, there is no empirical evidence that free parking is the solution to business ills on the waterfront. Reports of increased revenues for businesses during this year’s experiment have yet to be supported by hard figures comparing February and March 2019 with the same months in 2018.
But the problem this year is even more convoluted. Marine Drive was only just emerging from a business-inhibiting construction period for the delayed Memorial Park upgrade when the catastrophic Dec. 20 storm extensively damaged the pier, one of the city’s bona fide tourist draws. Will that have an impact on summer visits, or will it be offset by events such as Canada Day By The Bay, Sea Festival and the TD Concerts For The Pier series?
At the same time, the completion of the new West Beach parkade has added many new parking spaces – more than 180 spaces in all – to the equation. But – as Trevelyan freely admitted at last week’s council meeting – no-one really knows how popular it will prove with visitors during the summer months.
Meanwhile city financial services director Sandra Kurylo is budgeting for a potential deficit in parking revenues for the year, even as optimists are keeping fingers crossed for a boost in revenues from increasing summertime rates to a maximum of $4 per hour.
When originally proposed and approved during the last administration, the parkade was considered for providing a cheaper parking alternative than the waterfront lots. The current parking task force has taken a different philosophical approach, including it in the “high demand” area where this premium parking rate would apply.
What is the correct approach? The answer is that no one really knows, and a clear picture of what the market will bear will only be available once the market has borne it this year. Until then, it’s a matter of guesswork, in which theoretical justification could be made for just about any figure pulled out of the air.
As Mayor Darryl Walker correctly observed, with all the variables currently in play this year, waterfront parking must continue to be seen as “a pilot project” – subject to a rethink, once this year’s figures are in.