CANMORE – The long awaited parking plan for Canmore was finally presented to elected officials this week and it includes major changes to how the community’s downtown core operates, with changes recommended for time limits and the creation of paid parking.
Manager of engineering Andy Esarte presented the Integrated Parking Management Plan to council in a draft form at its committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday (June 12).
Esarte said growth of visitors coming to Canmore and the community are increasing the travel and parking demand on roads and neighbourhoods and in response council has made addressing the issue of congestion and traffic a priority.
“Development of this plan is part of our current business plan and it is one of the ways administration is addressing council’s priority of addressing parking and traffic congestion,” he said. “Like all successful communities, Canmore has parking challenges.”
The parking management plan provided recommendations for strategies to manage parking in Canmore into the future and they include establishing paid parking in the downtown core, changing all two-hour parking into four-hour parking, creating intercept parking, free public transit and maintaining lots where there is all day free parking.
Esarte pointed to a recently adopted parking study that showed downtown parking is being used beyond the 80-85 per cent threshold considered appropriate for approximately 21 per cent of business hours during peak season.
At 85 per cent, parking lots are considered at capacity and a lack of stalls begins to create congestion as drivers circulate looking for places to park. It creates frustration for residents and visitors at those peak times.
But there are days where parking is not at capacity, and overall parking is not over-utilized, according to the study. Esarte told council that means parking management approaches that try and redistribute parking demand at different times and locations would be an effective solution.
The parking plan, along with updates to the Integrated Transportation Plan, said Esarte, are comprehensively designed to enable growth in the number of people visiting the town centre while reducing peak hour parking demand and congestion at the same time.
The biggest changes are recommended to time limits and putting a price on parking in certain locations at certain times. Esarte said it is important to note the recommended changes include allowing a vehicle to park for 30 minutes free.
“We have gone to a lot of effort to attract people from a distance (to the community) and they should have the opportunity to park longer than two hours,” he added. “When pricing is applied only in areas of high utilization, it ensures there is parking available.
“It is suggested that flexibility be built into this process to allow pricing and location to be tested and adjusted to meet the Town’s goals.”
Free parking for longer durations would still be permitted in downtown parking lots that are a short walk from Main Street, and intercept parking provided for free as well. There is also a recommendation to improve signage and enforcement, and begin a monitoring program to identify if and where parking may spill over into residential areas.
There is also a recommendation to continue working with stakeholders like the Downtown Business Association, hotel association and Chamber of Commerce through a parking working group to monitor the program with administration.
Esarte said the intention of the plan is to effectively and comprehensively manage the stock of parking within the community.
“It is not a matter of picking and choosing which initiatives, per say, are palatable or attractive to one user group or another, but managing the overall stock with an integrated plan,” he said.
The Integrated Parking Management Plan is expected to be back in front of council next Tuesday (June 19) for approval. If approved, administration will develop a budget to inform the recommended strategies in the plan and that would form part of the budget process.
Esarte said there is also engagement for the community planned over the rest of the year on the parking plan, as well as integrated transportation plan changes, which inform major projects.
“We are kicking off engagement fairly soon for Railway Avenue and Bow Valley Trail to develop concepts designs,” he said.