Increased parking fees recommended to fund transit improvements

Day Lots 4 and 5 could become paid parking lots in peak seasons

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) could start charging for parking in Day Lots 4 and 5, and hike prices for lots 1 through 3, in order to pay for improvements to transit.

Those are just some of the recommendations in the Whistler 2017 Transportation Action Plan, set to be unveiled for locals at an information meeting on Tuesday (May 23) before it goes to council.

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“One of the big things we’ve heard on comment sheets (from public feedback for the Transportation Advisory Group) is enough thinking about it, enough talking about it, let’s do some things here,” said James Hallisey, manager of infrastructure services with the RMOW, in a media briefing last Thursday (May 18). “So we heard that and the recommendations coming out involve a lot of action.”

The five areas of recommendations include Highway 99 efficiencies, transit improvements, peak day operations plan, better parking management and preferred transportation modes. Several changes were put in place over the winter — ranging from manual control of intersections from Creekside to Function to starting the Gateway Loop construction. Now, plans are underway for the summer months.

For transit improvements, that means offering free transit on the weekends and holiday Mondays from July 1 to Sept. 4, an additional 1,750 service hours during peak periods and reducing the price of a bus pass starting in July, from $65 to $50.

“We saw a 50 per cent increase in ridership last year (during a pilot project to offer free transit on Saturdays),” Hallisey said. “One of the key reasons people said they were taking the bus was to avoid the trouble of finding a parking space on busy days in the Village, so we think we’re reaching to the right audience there.”

Other plans include a new pilot project to allow BC Transit buses to bypass congestion at Creekside and offer secure bike parking in the Village. “One of the things we got from the feedback was that people are reluctant to ride their expensive bikes into the Village because they don’t feel there are safe places to put them,” Hallisey said. “So we’re going to improve that situation.”

The total cost of these improvements is around $510,000. In order to pay for it, the plan recommends that the RMOW start charging for parking in lots 4 and 5 between July 1 and Sept. 4 and then from Dec. 15 until April 15. They will revert back to free lots in the shoulder seasons.

Alongside parking fee increases to the remaining day lots — from $8 a day to $10 a day — it also recommends increasing street parking in the Village and at the Whistler Conference Centre.

Hallisey said the move is different from 2011 when the council of the day instituted pay parking in the free parking lots. There was a municipal election shortly after and many argue that the clean sweep on council was because of the parking controversy.  

“This is very different,” Hallisey said. “This is not 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. This is not $12, it is not during the shoulder seasons when there’s nobody in the parking lot. It’s really just peak (times) when it’s really hard to find a place to park out there. We are looking at a resident and employee parking pass… that will be available for $30 — a dollar a day. We thought a fair amount of people should be able to manage.”

Going forward, the report recommends that the RMOW ask Vail Resorts, which owns Whistler Blackcomb, to consider making its Day Lots 6, 7 and 8 as well as spots at Creekside, pay parking and turn the revenue over to support local transit as well.

“The simple explanation is we’ve got congestion on the weekends, people coming in in the morning saying, ‘there’s no place to park,’” said CAO Mike Furey, who sits on the TAG. “You can’t just wave a magic wand and make it go away. We spent all this time working with all the stakeholders, all the experts and came back with what believe are the most viable options to resolve that. We can’t complain about the traffic and do nothing about it and hope it goes away.”

Those interested in learning more about the recommendations can attend an information session from 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday (May 23) at the Maury Young Arts Centre before the council meeting. The recommendations are also available online at whistler.ca.

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