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Comments and Resources re Kamloops Downtown Parking

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These comments are made on behalf of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, Kamloops Chapter Steering Committee.   We’re responding to the February 13, 2013 report “Parking Equipment and Technology” to the Kamloops City Council, recommending new technology and higher parking rates to address parking problems in the Kamloops downtown core.

We’d like to comment on two points that were raised in the original Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association (KCBIA) report. The KCBIA recommended a Parking Education, Awareness, Habits & Preferences Survey. This would involve surveying downtown businesses and staff to learn about their travel needs and to provide education about other options. The KCBIA also recommended an Offstreet Parking Inventory, to learn about unused and available parking from commercial or residential sources: what do we have already and how can we use it more effectively.

We fully support both of these but unfortunately they didn’t make it into the final recommendations. We would go even further to say a Transportation Demand Management study is needed. A Transportation Demand Management study, or TDM study, was recently done at Thompson Rivers University (TRU).   TRU Transportation Demand Management Strategy   This and other TDM studies look at how, why, when and where people travel, so that measures can be adopted that will make travel behaviours more sustainable. This can include education, promotion and outreach, and travel incentives and disincentives. The goal of a TDM program is to encourage a more sustainable use of transportation resources by changing travel behaviour. TDM programs will often include a balance of incentives and disincentives that encourage people to make those changes in their travel behaviour.

Quoting from Transport Canada’s website:

TDM will be an increasingly important part of sustainable transportation systems in Canada, moving us to a balance of transit, road and pathway networks. If we apply TDM successfully, our communities will benefit from an enhanced quality of life: lower traffic congestion, fewer emissions, improved public health and safety, greater economic competitiveness, and increased flexibility in the face of fossil fuel shortages.

TDM gives us the ability to maximize our return on investments in transportation infrastructure. http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/programs/environment-utsp-tdmintro-1039.htm

The BCSEA Kamloops Chapter asked for a TDM study two years ago. We were told there was no need for another study as this situation has already been studied in many ways. But we’ve looked at all the reports mentioned to us and find that the right questions haven’t been asked and the scope of earlier studies has been too narrow.

To be specific, we looked at these studies (see links in the Resources section below):

  • 2009 Lorne Street Traffic and Parking Assessment
  • 2007 Kamloops Household Travel Survey
  • 2005 City Centre Plan, and more.

What they have not addressed is:

  • What are the transportation needs of the downtown workers? How many people, times, routes, and modes of travel?
  • What would it take to get more people using alternative modes of transportation? For example, would a deep discount to the cost of ProPASS make the difference?
  • What is the full inventory of parking in the downtown area and is some of it under-utilized? How many spaces and where are they?
  • What can be done to ease the demand for parking and use the supply that is available more effectively?

So yes, there have been lots of studies, but we still don’t have the information we need to effectively manage transportation and parking in the downtown core.

At TRU, they doubled parking rates not long ago, AFTER doing the TDM study. Has anyone asked if this is bringing about the desired results? We suggest you look at the TRU study and imagine having a resource like that to guide the decision-making.

Raising parking rates and fines downtown is a disincentive, making car use less attractive there. According to TDM best practices, ideally you’d want to balance that by making transit, walking, cycling and carpooling more attractive. Is that happening? Perhaps, but much more could be done.

The perceived parking congestion downtown is a complex problem. To address it in a long-term sense, we need to use big-picture thinking to look at the economic, social and environmental aspects of the problem and its solutions. The report here has a narrow focus: it looks at parking solutions. We need to remember that it’s not just a parking problem, it’s a problem of how best to help people get around in our city. It’s a transportation and city planning problem.

To truly solve this in a long-term way, making sure our downtown is a vibrant place and is accessible to everyone, let’s think bigger, include other perspectives and get the professional expertise that we need.

This year, the City will be developing a Transportation Plan, and we also expect to be updating the Official Community Plan (OCP). It’s the perfect opportunity to do a TDM study! Include all the stakeholders and points of view; consider economic, social and environmental aspects; and arrive at a big-picture plan that will guide us into the future.

In the absence of a good TDM study, our first choice of action would be strong incentives encouraging alternative transportation use. But that’s not before Council for decision right now. Whatever Council decides about the new technology and higher parking rates, we truly hope the outcome is what you’re looking for.

This is our request: we urge Council and Administration to proceed with a true Transportation Demand Management study to bring better information and a broader scope to the problem, so we can solve it in a sustainable long-term way.

 

Resources

  • February 13 2013, Parking Equipment Technology Report, see attached file below
  • 2009 Lorne Street Traffic and Parking Assessment, see attached file below.
  • 2007 Kamloops Household Travel Survey, see attached file below.

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