The new parking lot, the parking fee hike, and Plan B

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
December 9, 2017 - 1:46pm

I sat in my old office at The Kamloops Daily News yesterday.

Or, rather, I sat in my truck in a parking spot where my old office used to be, thinking about George W. Bush.

By strict coincidence, at almost exactly the same time, the Kamloops Downtown Business Improvement Association was announcing it wants the City to put off the parking-fee increase scheduled for next year.

Back to that in a minute. Though the bulk of the new lot is marked reserved, there were a whole bunch of empty spaces for public parking. Down on Victoria Street a block away, all available spots were taken. We still won’t walk a block.

A few things ran through my head as I sat there. One was, nothing about this feels right. It’s like disrespecting the dead, as though a loved one has passed away and everyone has moved on a little too quickly.

But then George W.’s voice came to me as if in a séance: “The past is over.” I’ve always liked that line. “The past is over,” he said to me as I sat there, right where my desk used to be. It was as if George W. was telling me to get on with life.

So I looked at the nice new pavement, the bricks, the iron fencing and the few spots where bushes will go, and told myself, this is a damn fine parking lot.

The way I see it, the taxpayers of Kamloops spent $5.6 million (including buying the property, demolishing the building and paving it over) for me to park in that lot for 30 minutes while I went for a haircut.

That’s exactly the same as Justin spent on an outdoor hockey rink in front of the Parliament Buildings. Comparisons can be made about the wisdom of either project, but the parking lot will be there a lot longer than the rink.

On the other hand, the rink can be moved somewhere else and used again; the parking lot will be torn up and hauled off to a disposal site. That is, if City fathers and mothers ever come up with a Plan B.

That’s what’s supposed to happen. I’m thinking it won’t. The Kamloops Daily News Memorial Parking Lot (in a burst of creativity, the City has officially named it “St. Paul lot”) is going to become very popular in a short period of time. Shoppers will realize the walk to Victoria Street isn’t much farther than the one from their car to the front door of Walmart on flyer days.

When that happens, finding an open spot on Victoria Street will stop being the most important thing in life.

They’ll figure out that this lot has quite a bit going for it, including the fact it isn’t a parkade. In the new lot, you don’t have to drive around and around without knowing whether you’ll find a spot. You don’t have to hike up and down stairs or take an elevator to get to street level because you’re already there.

Point is, once people come to know it, they’ll like it, and they’re not going to give it up easily. By the time Plan B comes along, if ever, they’re not going to take kindly to being thrown back on the street to endlessly circle the downtown core like Charlie on the MTA.

“We’re not going to spend more millions building a parkade somewhere,” they’ll say. The City will have to find somewhere else to put a performing arts centre.

The reasons given yesterday by the KCBIA for postponing the 25-cent per hour parking rate hike are “negative public perception” about downtown parking, lack of “timely and relevant” information, and no new long-term public parking.

So, says the BIA, no rate increase for one year or, at least, until there’s a parking study or new parking spaces.

I’m not sure what planet the KCBIA is living on. Knowing that the recently proposed $100,000 downtown parking study was rejected because it was wildly unpopular, does the KCBIA think it can get the public onside by lobbying for postponement of an equally unpopular rate increase?

If the City agreed to what the BIA is asking for, as soon as the study was completed, the rate increase would be triggered. So why would anyone want the study to be finished?

As for long-term parking? Well, I was on it yesterday. The “interim” use of the former KDN property will soon become permanent, ergo long-term.

So if the parking-rate increase is going to be postponed, it will have to be unconditional.