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Banff to consult public on parking plan

“This is exactly what we should be doing, and this is exactly the direction we should have gone in my opinion before, and not done a plebiscite.”
Banff's Bear Street parkade is full Saturday as another busy day in the townsite stretches parking resources. RMO FILE PHOTO

BANFF – The municipality will start public consultation this fall on its proposal for downtown user-pay parking and a residential parking permit system to deal with the tourist town’s traffic troubles.

On Monday (July 15), Banff council approved spending $22,400 on a range of ways to get feedback from the community on the new parking management plan, including a public forum, drop-in sessions, stakeholder meetings, online discussion forum and surveys, among others.

“Our goal is in-depth conversations that are more successful than fast input,” said Jason Darrah, the Town of Banff’s communications director at a council meeting Monday (July 15).

As visitation in Banff continues to soar to more than four million visitors a year, and given the number of vehicles entering Banff, traffic congestion and parking continues to be an issue for residents, businesses and visitors.

The new comprehensive parking management plan identifies a residential permit system and user-pay parking in the downtown to increase turnover of parking spaces, with the idea of increasing parking availability in the commercial district, while also adding “free” periods.

Investments in Roam public transit, multi-use trails and soon-to-be open Liricon Capital’s 500-stall intercept lot at the Banff train station give alternatives to driving private vehicles.

But without disincentives to driving such as user-pay parking in peak periods of visitation, officials say incentives to use alternative transportation are unlikely to be fully used, leaving parking spaces difficult to find and the limited road network congested.

“A resident permit system should not be implemented without user-pay parking, and user-pay parking system should not be implemented without protection of residential parking because spillover would exacerbate pressure on residential neighbourhoods,” states a Town report.

Topics up for discussion during public consultation, which gets underway in September, include resident permit system costs, allocation of revenue from user-pay parking, locations, seasonality, days and hours for resident permits and user-pay parking, as well as free periods before charges apply or resident options in user-pay parking.

Alanna Pettigrew, representing Banff Residents Against Paid Parking (BRAPP), said it’s not necessary to spend more money on further public consultation, urging council to listen to the results of the 2017 plebiscite.

Asked if there was ever a time the Town of Banff should implement user pay parking, 1,107 residents said no, representing 54 per cent of the vote, and 959 said yes, with 46 per cent of the vote.

“It is obvious that you want user pay parking regardless of the outcome of the plebiscite,” Pettigrew told council on Monday. “You are positioning this project to happen no matter what.”

Councillor Grant Canning, who voted against holding a plebiscite at the time, said the results were non-binding.

“I thought it was a terrible idea to have a plebiscite. You cannot take a complicated topic such as this and boil it down to a simplistic yes or no question,” he said, adding the upcoming public consultation is the better way to go.

“This is exactly what we should be doing, and this is exactly the direction we should have gone in my opinion before, and not done a plebiscite.”