CANMORE – Canmore’s elected officials have long identified traffic and congestion in the downtown as a strategic priority for the municipality to tackle and this week it took a big step toward implementing a plan to do just that.
The Integrated Parking Management Plan was in front of council Tuesday night (June 19) and council voted unanimously to approve it for planning purposes.
The plan sets out recommendations for actions the municipality can take to manage traffic in the town centre, including the introduction of year-round paid parking on Main Street, changes to the cash-in-lieu policy for new development, fare-free transit and a permit system for residents who live near the downtown.
Mayor John Borrowman supported the plan, and noted that a lot of work has gone into creating the plan and helping council understand it.
“A lot of the feedback I get from the public is about the need to do something about congestion and busyness in the downtown core,” Borrowman said. “I think a lot of the suggestions in the plan are really to the point and I appreciate how we are moving slowly down this road and being careful.”
Councillor Joanna McCallum said the plan is about more than just buzzwords like “paid parking” for the community.
“The one part of the plan I think is the most valuable is how hard we have engaged with local businesses and the hotel association,” McCallum said. “The reason it has taken such a time to put out this plan is because there has been so much engagement already.
“I think what is really important for everyone to remember each initiative is going to come back to council for tweaks and improvements and this is not going to roll out overnight.”
Manager of engineering Andy Esarte presented the plan to council, as well as details on how it would be implemented if approved.
“We have gone through the process of defining our challenge, we have looked at our community values and goals and used those to shape the way we approach solutions,” Esarte said. “If we focus on buying more parking sock and adding more capacity, there are going to be a lot of negative impacts on the community we would have to deal with and rarely do those solutions provide relief.”
He said the plan gives residents and visitors real options for how they travel into the town centre, increases the capacity of the roadways, and supports environmental goals as well. It changes all two-hour parking to four-hour time limits and allows vehicles to park for the first 30 minutes free, allowing those running errands to park without paying.
“It is also important to keep in mind this plan is also about improving motorists convenience,” Esarte said. “Right now, we do not have a convenient system. You show up and parking is not available.
“These goals cannot be accomplished with any single strategy or solution. It is a range of solutions that have been outlined in the plan and there are synergistic effects … they build on each other.”
As for implementation of the plan, he told council the next steps involve administration working through its budget process and investigate pricing technologies on the market.
But implementation goes beyond just creating paid parking, it includes fare-free transit and using the revenues from parking to offset those costs. There is also the establishment of intercept parking, and signage throughout the town about where parking is located and available.