It has been almost a decade since Canmore actually studied its downtown parking situation and the results are in – parking is at a premium, especially on market Thursdays, weekends and holidays in summer.
But not only has parking at certain times reached capacity, recommendations for future solutions include implementing paid parking and changing all public parking – on street and off – to four hour limits.
Manager of engineering Andy Esarte presented the results of the parking study and told council the findings would form part of an anticipated parking strategy administration expects to present in fall. Esarte said the study looked at how parking downtown has changed since the last time a study was conducted – 2007.
“Managing traffic congestion and parking in the town centre has been a priority of council with it most recently being one of the priorities in the 2016-18 strategic plan,” he said. “This isn’t surprising. Canmore is highly desirable as a place for visitors and residents alike and all great places have a need to manage transportation and parking challenges.
“We expect that busy roads are here to stay. We do, however, want them to be safe, vibrant and contribute to Canmore’s sense of place. Canmore is and always should be a place where people love to work, live and visit.”
The study and subsequent parking strategy are expected to identify a range of options to manage parking and traffic in a way that addressed growth in the community’s population and tourism.
Effective transportation networks, said Esarte, include prioritizing moving people through walking, cycling and transit. The parking study, he said, provides quantitative data and recommendations to manage parking and traffic congestion. It was conducted by Stantec Engineering and documented available supply and constraints during four periods: a summer long weekend, a typical summer weekend day, a typical weekday and a market Thursday.
According to Stantec’s Selby Thannikary, the study also looked at several aspects of parking that weren’t measured originally in 2007, like demand for bike parking space and outdoor seating.
Thannikary said the study included a recommendation that a more uniform parking time restriction be implemented throughout the town centre – four hour parking in all public on street and off street parking lots and designate areas for all-day parking managed through a permit system.
“We do recommend creating uniform time restricted parking could be created this year or next year,” he said. “Four hours within the downtown core area allows people to reasonably shop and use other facilities.”
Other recommended strategies for council to consider were free transit, paid parking and establishing a decal program for residential parking in areas that surround the town centre.
A copy of the study was not publicly available at the time of the presentation to council. According to a staff report to council at its committee of the whole meeting, the full study should be publicly released in the next two months. Of the findings provided, they include that the overall parking stock has increased by 15 vehicle stalls since 2007 as a result of the combination of decreased on-street parking, and increased off-street parking.
Parking occupancy rates have generally increased since 2007, with parking near or at capacity for a longer duration each day. Parking durations have increased and long-term parking represented approximately 10 per cent in parking lots.
The study area was expanded from the 2007 study to include areas that are seeing a spillover of parking already, such as Seventh Avenue past 10th Street and Seventh Street in its entirety.
The study found that on-street parking was at 61.7 per cent occupancy on a typical weekday, 75 per cent on a market Thursday, 62.8 per cent on a typical weekend day and 66.2 per cent on a long weekend day.
Off-street parking, on the other hand, was at 85.2 per cent on the typical weekday, 99.1 per cent on a market Thursday, 95.3 per on a typical weekend day and 100.6 per cent on a long weekend.
Thannikary indicated the above 100 per cent reflects when vehicles are observed parking wherever they can find space outside of designated areas. Occupancy of parking stalls also varied throughout the day, with peak demand for most areas occurring through midday.
“Typically we would say at 80 to 85 per cent you have reached capacity conditions,” Thannikary said. “At that range you are down to a couple of stalls here or there and to find those, people would be circulating.”
Duration of parking varied from on-street weekdays at 80 minutes average, to 87 minutes on market Thursdays – compared to an average 69 minutes from the 2007 study. Weekend on-street parking was found to have an average duration of 74 minutes, and was unchanged for market Thursdays and 73 minutes in the 2007 study.
For Esarte, a key finding was that growth was outpacing parking demand, which meant strategies to reduce vehicles entering the town centre are working and more are needed. The volume of people has increased at a greater rate from 2007 than the demand for parking, and the study’s results support that.
Those strategies include providing space for bikes through infrastructure like bike parking and bike lanes and the implementation of public transit. With the expected completion of Main Street construction with the newly adopted complete street design as part of the integrated transportation master plan, the improved pathway connection to Bow Valley Trail underway and future work on Railway, Esarte said the municipality is undertaking infrastructure improvements that will continue to address the issue of parking and congestion downtown.
He said the study support the work done so far and that includes efforts to change the streetscape of Main Street with added bike corrals and in-street patios taking places that cars used to park in.
“The focus is on people,” Esarte said. “We want the town centre to work for residents. We want it to work for visitors. We want it to be a great place to be. What we are seeing is by trading small amounts of car storage we are getting great vibrancy on Main Street.”