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Town staff to rework downtown paid parking based on lessons learned

“We do have an opportunity to modify our downtown paid parking program based on the lessons learned in Quarry Lake and the Town of Banff."
RMO File photo.

CANMORE – Whether people like it or not, paid parking is coming to downtown Canmore.

But after learning lessons from the Quarry Lake paid parking pilot program and downtown paid parking in the Town of Banff, the Canmore downtown program will likely take on a different look than first envisioned.

While a launch date has yet to be selected and the specifics have yet to be finalized, Town staff will work on the details for the incoming council to ultimately decide.

“We do have an opportunity to modify our downtown paid parking program based on the lessons learned in Quarry Lake and the Town of Banff,” said Whitney Smithers, the Town’s general manager of municipal infrastructure.

The new program would look at extending the free parking period for residents in the downtown area and moving the hourly rate to be more in line with the Town of Banff’s – $3 an hour in summer and $2 an hour in winter – to help the regional consistency.

Part of council’s strategic plan was to use paid parking to help fund local transit and manage congestion in town. Intercept parking spots have been made in some areas of the community, though not on the scale of Fenlands recreation centre and the train station in Banff.

The original council motion from December 2019 was rescinded and direction was provided for council to use the lessons gathered from Banff and Quarry Lake to improving the downtown program before it launches.

The COVID-19 pandemic led them to delay the project until 2021. However, the program was pushed back again so as to not impact local businesses.

The original program would have featured 30 minutes of free parking, a residential parking permit, four-hour restrictions between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. for the downtown core and a monthly parking pass and $1 all-day parking lots. The residential parking permit would have been free for two vehicles per household and additional ones would be $100 for a two-year permit.

“We don’t want to implement all of that detail because we know from the Town of Banff’s experience and our own experience at Quarry Lake that we can develop and deliver a better program than it was originally envisioned,” Smithers said.

A paid parking program was started this year for Quarry Lake, which found significant success in bringing in revenue for Town coffers. The program provided a free pass per household in Canmore and collected about $220,000 this past summer.

“It’s important that we’ve had these learning opportunities from other implications of this and we’re lucky Banff did it before we did because we do get to learn from some of the processes and procedures of what worked well. … We’re regional, so it’s important we do provide that context for implementing these processes,” Coun. Vi Sandford said.

The Town of Banff also began its paid downtown parking this year, which features three hours of free parking for local residents and then a rate of $3 per hour in summer.

“It’s valuable revenue for some of the work that is imagined to be funded through paid parking and I’m happy to see administration respond with what we’ve seen on the ground and what we’ve seen in our friends to the west in the Town of Banff,” Mayor John Borrowman said.

The 2022 budget meetings will have the final anticipated operating costs, while the revenue collected by the program will largely go towards funding fare-free local transit. However, revenue will also go to local infrastructure and offsite improvements, such as a shuttle to Quarry Lake.

“The paid parking program is bigger than just downtown Canmore because we did identify in a previous report it would be something we’d want to look at in other high demand areas in town possibly going forward as a traffic management solution,” Smithers said.

A public engagement process will take place before the end of the year.

“I think this is a really good news story. A lot of the things that were brought up in terms of free parking for residents, hourly rates, are things that I’ve heard from the public when we were imagining it two years ago,” Coun. Joanna McCallum said.

“We have the opportunity to address these before we actually roll the program out. It addresses the concerns of local people and it’s still a tool to address our mode shift as well as manage congestion and manage our parking.”