CANMORE – The long-awaited launch of Canmore's downtown paid parking program is set to roll out this spring.
Residents can expect the program to start in either May or June, with the option to begin registering license plates in April for three hours of free parking in the zone per day.
For non-residents, the peak season between May 15 to Oct. 14 will be $3 an hour and then $2 in the off-peak season of Oct. 15 to May 14. Paid parking will be enforced between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
But while it has been seen as a cash grab for some residents and a war on vehicles by others, it’s aligning with the Town of Canmore's long held policy of shifting to prioritizing pedestrianization and active modes of transportation.
“Paid parking isn’t an objective in and of itself, it hangs together with a whole transportation strategy and an attempt to balance the needs and interests of our community,” said Whitney Smithers, the general manager of municipal infrastructure for the Town.
“Free parking isn’t free. It does come at a cost in terms of capital infrastructure and also in terms of greenhouse gas emissions … it’s all part of a bigger strategy that focuses on what can we do to emphasize different modes, what can we do to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and what can we do to achieve those broader objectives that work us towards that? … It all rolls up to a bigger community vision.”
The paid zone will mainly encompass 7th Street to 10th Street from 8th Avenue to 6th Avenue. The free municipal lots near artsPlace and the Miner’s Hall will be the largest areas converted to paid parking, but street options in the area will also require pay to park.
In the areas just outside of the paid zones, there will be a resident parking permit-only available to locals and to limit non-residents from parking in primarily residential areas near the downtown core.
Several loading zones will remain in place for 15-minute use and stretches of Fairholme Drive, 7th Avenue and along the railway line behind the courthouse will offer nine-hour free parking. There will also be free accessible spots available.
Andy Esarte, the Town’s manager of engineering, said within walking distance of downtown there will remain more than 200 municipal free spots and a further 375 private stalls for businesses and hotels.
He added there will be 12 pay machines – the majority of them being solar – that will not offer coin or cash payment, but a wide availability of electronic options.
An app will also be available for people to see the locations of parking spots, the municipality's regulations and the pricing.
“Our goal is to have 90 per cent utilization,” Esarte said. “If people know from experience they can come into the Town centre, it’s going to be a better user experience because they know they can find parking on all the streets and parking lots based on pricing and regulation that we use to keep the demand at 80 to 90 per cent.”
The revenue from the downtown and Quarry Lake paid parking is anticipated to bring in $745,000 in 2022 for Town coffers.
The money has been earmarked to increase weekday and Sunday Roam transit service, aid in the fare-free service, fund future expenses in the program and hire a new planner to work on the Palliser lands and the downtown area redevelopment plan.
The funds will also be used to bring a transit line from Quarry Lake, the nordic centre and Grassi Lakes in 2023.
The Town had previously planned to institute a paid parking program downtown in both 2020 and 2021, but it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The extra two years allowed the Town to learn from experience with Quarry Lake last year, but also the Town of Banff, which began its program last summer.
The Banff program has an hourly rate of $3 an hour in the summer and $2 an hour in the winter. Banff residents also receive three hours of free parking. Banff council is discussing whether or not to increase fares and expand the paid parking to other areas of town.
Quarry Lake paid parking will also see slight changes with two-hour parking options for $10 in peak season and $2.50 an hour in off-peak season.
The Canmore resident parking pass will replace the Quarry Lake Pass, meaning residents will only have to sign up for one pass. People who have registered for a Quarry Lake pass will have to register again for the new pass due to the new system and eligibility requirements.
ParkPlus will be replaced to have a more specific system for Canmore, with the ParkPlus system designed for the City of Calgary. A contract with the new vendor is anticipated to be signed in the coming days.
The Quarry Lake paid parking program was a financial success for the Town in its first year. Originally estimated to bring in $80,000 of net revenue, last year saw $220,000 enter Town coffers.
However, Quarry Lake paid parking also led to residents of the Municipal District of Bighorn being shut out of the pass program set up for Canmore residents. The Town of Canmore and MD of Bighorn held an inter-municipal meeting Jan. 14, which saw further discussions on including Bighorn residents in the pass program at a cost.
The two municipalities have a six-year agreement for using recreation services that was signed in 2020. It sees Bighorn pay about $110,000 for its residents to use the Canmore Recreation Centre and Elevation Place.
“I say to our neighbours in the MD that work is being done by your elected leaders to address these issues,” Coun. Tanya Foubert said.
While somewhat controversial for some residents, the increase in revenue allowed council to increase Canmore’s transit frequency and hire a planner specifically focused on the Palliser lands and the downtown area redevelopment plan. Those moves are financed from paid parking as opposed to coming from local taxpayers.
The anticipated revenue from the downtown paid parking will also go towards a parking coordinator position and four parking staff to enforce the zones.
Esarte said the 2018 Integrated Parking Management Plan aligns with the goals of the Municipal Development Plan and the Integrated Transportation Plan that has mode shift goals for transit.
Both he and Smithers highlighted that free parking isn’t free, since it involves enforcement, maintenance, construction and loss of land for development.
“When we surveyed all the parking areas in 2016, we found the same handful of spots were always the spots that were full, but at no time in the Town centre when you looked at the entirety of the parking stock – private and public – were they anywhere close to full,” Esarte said. “There was always a lot of parking available, it just wasn’t where people wanted it. People were spending a lot of time circling around the same handful of spots trying to find those parking places.
“Success is going to be if you can find parking. … It’ll be a management of that demand that allows us to start and continue taking spaces that we’re using and use it in ways that are meaningful for the community. There’s lot of different things you can do with asphalt paved areas.”
ABOUT THE DOWNTOWN PAID PARKING PROGRAM
- Will run seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Peak season rates are $3 an hour (May 15 to Oct. 14)
- Off-peak season rates are $2 an hour (Oct. 15 to May 14)
- Canmore resident parking permit holders will get up to three hours of free parking per day
- 600 to 700 parking spots shifted to paid parking available
QUARRY LAKE PROGRAM AS OF MAY 15
- Peak season rates of $10 for two hours (May 15 to Oct. 14)
- Off-peak season rates of $2.50 an hour (Oct. 15 to May 14)
- Maintain the pay parking for all hours the park is open
- Canmore resident parking pass replaces Quarry Lake pass
- 130 parking spots available
ELIGIBILITY FOR THE CANMORE RESIDENT PARKING PASS
- Full-time residents can register vehicles with a Canmore address
- Part-time residents can register with a local mailing address
- Three-month permits for people who are moving
- Six-month for work permits