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Town of Ladysmith will increase parking enforcement downtown

Report finds average downtown parking utilization is 36 per cent
A drone photo from a Town of Ladysmith parking study shows vehicles that appear to have remained for at least three hours in parking spaces with two-hour limits. (Town of Ladysmith photo)

A new Town of Ladysmith report shows parking isn’t really a problem in the downtown, but council, nevertheless, wants to strengthen parking enforcement.

Town council, at a meeting Tuesday, April 2, voted to direct staff to increase enforcement of parking time limits in the area around the intersection of 1st Avenue and Gatacre Street.

The town’s official community plan, Ladysmith Unparalleled, prescribes parking studies every two years to ensure that downtown parking remains under a threshold of 85 per cent utilization. The town’s study found that in fact, average parking utilization downtown is 36 per cent and peak utilization between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. is below 60 per cent. The 85 per cent threshold was exceeded only “in limited areas during limited times,” noted the report, but even at those times, average parking utilization within 250 metres of the busiest areas was 70 per cent.

Councillors praised the report, which was done by town hall staff and not an outside consultant, and some council members indicated they were surprised by the findings.

“I was one of those people that felt that we were 110 per cent overuse, so I’m glad to see we’re not even 85 most of the time,” said Coun. Duck Paterson.

Coun. Jeff Virtanen said the report’s findings go against some of his lived experiences, but he chalked that up to bad timing.

“We’ve talked about it lots that we don’t have a parking problem, that maybe it’s more of an enforcement issue, yet we never seem to talk about how to improve that enforcement, so I’d like to have that conversation,” he said.

Coun. Tricia McKay floated the idea of a “soft campaign” to ask people to consider parking farther away and leaving prime parking for those who need it most, but Mayor Aaron Stone, a downtown business owner, suggested that might be “Pollyanna” thinking.

“The majority of cars I see parked there in the areas that are marked as the most troublesome are there all day, every day, day after day, week after week,” he said. “We go and we do some spot enforcement and it improves for a week or two and then generally falls right back into it. I don’t think the issues that we have are customer parking, it’s chronic employee and resident parking because we don’t have enforcement.”

The OCP has policies in place if average parking utilization is above the 85 per cent threshold, including further parking data collection and measures such as shorter parking time limits, implementation of pay parking, new parking facilities and transit investment. Staff is not recommending those options, and councillors didn’t express an appetite for those measures.

“Even as a business owner who’s really frustrated with the parking issues in the couple blocks there, I wouldn’t call on the town to invest more in more parking infrastructure, I would just ask the town to probably enforce more,” Stone said.

Coun. Marsh Stevens made the motion to increase parking enforcement and the motion carried unanimously.

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About the Author: Greg Sakaki

I have been in the community newspaper business for two decades, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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