CANMORE – A monthly parking pass will be an option for residents when paid parking comes to Canmore this spring.
The Town will run a pilot pass program to coincide with the first year of downtown paid parking that will allow those eligible for the resident pass to also purchase a monthly pass.
But while the pass was greeted with council support, much of the discussion was based on potentially allowing non-Canmore residents to have a similar type of pass, especially with businesses struggling to find workers.
Town staff will also return in June with a report about potentially having a pass for downtown workers who live outside Canmore.
“We’re dealing with a wicked problem of parking and more information would be helpful. As council representative for the BIA, I’ve heard loud and clear that there are businesses who rely on this challenging time of employment and staffing on various staff members who have various skill sets that have to come from afar,” Coun. Jeff Mah said.
“We’re still not through the pandemic, and I still think there’s some challenges, so adding additional road blocks of trying to get businesses to survive can be tricky.”
While council was cautious to make too many exceptions for the program, there was interest in helping non-Canmore residents who work in the community for the first year.
Coun. McCallum highlighted Canmore residents who work in Banff don’t receive help with its paid parking and locals who work in Calgary would also have to pay for parking. She also noted that the program was meant to begin two years ago, but has been postponed, allowing people more time to prepare.
“It would not be a forever, but for this summer only. It would be to bridge the gap between our employment challenges because we’re just going to be continually asked to give another exception to the rule,” she said.
“I want to keep my mind open and I want to be empathetic, but at the same time to take a step back the Town has made our downtown quite precious. Through policy over the years, we have worked really hard to protect the businesses and types of businesses in downtown. … I feel like we didn’t do that for any other district in Canmore.”
Coun. Wade Graham echoed McCallum’s comments, especially if it weakens the paid parking program as a whole.
“Every exception undermines the end goal of this program," he said. "I understand the staff shortages and I understand the camaraderie we want to have with our neighbours in the MD. I really like the suggestion of an interim program or pilot with a predetermined date time.”
Set to begin this spring or summer, the paid parking program has received negative feelings from residents. However, as part of the Town’s priority of shifting to active modes of transit and providing free local public transit, it is another step to help reduce vehicle traffic. It will also bring in significant revenues to Town coffers as visitation increases once again.
“This is not a program designed for people to like it unless you like a certain portion of the revenues at some point,” Coun. Tanya Foubert said.
Mayor Sean Krausert said if a pass in the downtown for workers who live outside of Canmore is approved, it will likely be only a few dozen people who apply as opposed to hundreds of people.
“For non-resident employees, I think it’s a need to have and that’s because they don’t have those other options, but they need to come down to work and our businesses need them to come down and work," he said.
Danielle Liwanag, the Town’s paid parking coordinator, said the intent would be to phase out the resident monthly pass over a “very long” period and as local transit routes increase, but Town staff first need data on the level of interest.
She told council the paid parking program is anticipated to launch in the coming weeks, but has hit a temporary setback due to supply chain issues delivering the paid parking machines and software issues in the online portal to register vehicles.
“We want to make sure we give enough time for our administrative team to process all of the resident passes since they’re will be a huge inflex once the portal is open and we want to make sure everyone is given the chance to get their resident permits before enforcement is opened," she said.
The pass will cost $83 a month from May 1 to Oct. 31 and then drop to $41.50 a month Nov. 1 to April 30. A $1.25 processing fee will also be applied to the pass.
The pass came into being following an April 5 delegation from the Downtown BIA requesting some type of pass to help employers and employees. The organization requested both residents and non-residents since people who work in Canmore don’t necessarily live in the community.
The Downtown BIA had also asked for 25 per cent of paid parking revenues in the downtown area to be returned for use in the BIA area. Council postponed any decision until November 2022 to allow for a year of statistics and learn the net revenue from the first year.
There will continue to be free parking on 7th Avenue, Fairholme Drive and the panhandle at Elevation Place.
For people who get a monthly pass, they’ll be able to use the lot for up to 72 hours. They also won’t have to register their licence plate for individual parking.
The report stated data on usage, number of permits, revenues, pricing and availability of the passes will be evaluated each year it runs.
“Parking is quite expensive, including the cost for land, infrastructure, maintenance and enforcement,” Liwanag said. “These costs for parking are currently funded through taxes by residents and businesses.”