If Canmore and Banff want to establish paid parking for the downtown cores of both communities then the revenues from it should be funnelled into increasing transit and making it free throughout the valley.
This valley is already the most expensive place to live in Alberta. Adding another cost of living through paid parking next year is going to add to many residents' financial struggles – and the struggle is indeed real for many in both communities.
On its own, a cost of $1 an hour for parking isn't onerous. But when you begin to consider the cumulative effects of what it takes to live here, as well as anticipated increases to things like insurance premiums in the province, people will be feeling the proverbial death by a thousand cuts from having to absorb yet another daily expense.
We would argue that decisions by our local councils that increase the cost of living, should also result in changes that make it more affordable or easier to live in the valley.
Canmore's paid parking proposal is tied to providing free transit in the community. Banff council should be considering connecting its paid parking with making transit in that community free as well. Free transit dramatically increases ridership as we have already seen in Canmore.
While paying for transit with parking in Canmore is a good step, council should also be considering how to funnel those revenues into establishing a second route for the community so even more residents and neighbourhoods are able to take advantage of the service.
The cost of parking is not a new debate to the valley, with Banff having held two plebiscites so far for the community to weigh in on the decision. Both times, the results were in favour of those opposing the change.
The proposal to establish pay parking for both communities in 2020 will undoubtably be a hard pill for some to swallow, especially business owners and those who work in the town centre.
But there is a cost to parking, whether it is the end user who pays for it or municipal taxpayers. Parking supply, management and maintenance is a function of our municipalities and that means it will never be free. It is a question of who should pay?
Paid parking isn't just about the revenue source, it is also about behaviour change and reducing traffic and congestion in Canmore and Banff's downtown core.
The visitors are not going to stop coming here and as residents we often complain about the effects of those added vehicles on our roadways, especially during the busiest times of the year. Traffic, parking and congestion are priorities for both councils to address, but so is affordability.
By increasing the number of neighbourhoods that have access to free transit in Canmore and establishing free transit in Banff – the ends and the means to get there will be more effective.
Both Canmore and Banff are struggling with issues of congestion and parking, as well as affordability for residents. By introducing paid parking, affordability takes a hit. By providing free transit and increasing options for commuters – both priorities can be addressed in tandem.
Doing nothing is no longer an option for either community or their elected officials. Our tourism based economy means we host millions of people each year on our streets and roads, and they have to park somewhere when they are here.
If visitation continues to increase, whether during peak season or not, then some changes are definitely needed to address the problem. If we can also use the revenues to create a benefit for residents through free and expanded transit services – then perhaps it will be easier to adjust to this added cost for residents and that is an equally important priority to deal with as managing our transportation networks more effectively.