Project Background & Engagement
The City of Nelson’s 2013 Official Community Plan states that “the City will consider completing a parking study for the downtown that considers transit opportunities, buses, bicycle infrastructure, pedestrian needs, and parking requirements, and ensures that there is adequate parking to meet the projected growth in the region”.
Preparing a downtown parking strategy is a common approach for cities of all sizes, from Fernie and Whitehorse to Prince George and Kelowna to Winnipeg and Calgary. A key benefit of having a downtown parking strategy is that, rather than making ad hoc decisions on policies and complaints, it provides a researched, community-informed, and holistically conceived roadmap and work plan for staff that pre-approves a list of actions to deal with identified problems and meet City goals. A strategy also serves to inform residents of the actions that the City plans to pursue in coming years to address parking-related concerns identified by the community through public engagement.
A first draft of the downtown parking strategy was presented to the Committee of the Whole on May 15, 2017. An interdepartmental staff meeting was held on August 22, 2018 to discuss interim actions and to agree on a procedural framework for the coming year, including public engagement options. Further work and public consultation on the strategy was included as part of Development Services’ 2019 work plan. City Council held a workshop on December 16, 2019 to review a draft of the strategy that was largely the same as the final draft attached.
Additional consultation was planned for March 2020, however the COVID-19 pandemic shifted priorities. Furthermore, 2020 did not seem to be an appropriate year to discuss new parking pricing. In light of this, staff are recommending that Council proceed to approve a downtown parking strategy with the understanding that additional, more specific consultation will be required prior to moving forward with many of the strategy’s proposed actions. The advantage of approving the strategy at this time is to solidify Council’s interest in pursuing this project and the strategy’s proposed guiding principles and general direction.
Phase 1 (January and February 2019): Listen, Learn, and Collect
- Initial consultation (idea crowdsourcing), including with the business community
- Collect data
Phase 2 (March-November 2019): Coming Up with Proposals
Phase 3 (December 2019): Policy Workshop with Council
Phase 4 (2020): Updating the Draft Strategy
Final Council Approval of the Strategy in March 2021
As downtown Nelson becomes busier, the availability of convenient parking in the downtown has been raised as an issue by the business community, visitors and the community at large. Council had identified the need to develop a parking strategy as a priority in their 2015-2018 Strategic Plan. The City established an internal parking committee that has been working since the beginning of the year to develop a draft strategy. Staff presented the draft parking strategy to Council on May 15, 2017 and were directed to develop a consultation process with stakeholders.
The strategy includes a vision for more efficient use of existing downtown parking as well as opportunities to develop new parking, identification of guiding principles, and strategies and actions for implementing those principles.
In 2016, staff completed an initial review of parking availability in the downtown. This review included paid meters, free two-hour parking zones, institutional and private parking, handicap stalls and loading zones. During the summer review period, it was determined that the average occupancy of public stalls throughout the entire downtown core parking area was 75%, with key locations on Baker, Vernon, Victoria, Kootenay and Josephine Streets being well over 85% during the hours between 10:00am to 4:00pm. Optimal parking stall occupancy is considered to be 85%. With an average of 75% utilization, Nelson’s downtown core is slightly below optimal use. It was also noted in this review, that handicap stalls (50% occupied) and institutional and private parking appeared underutilized, that loading zones were well used and the 15 minute meters were causing confusion for drivers.
In March 2019, Interior Health’s “Healthy Communities” program submitted a letter in support of the draft Downtown Parking Strategy in “support [of] the implementation of actions that improve efficient use of existing parking resources while supporting a balanced transportation system that promotes and maintains facilities and programs that encourage alternative modes of transportation. When transportation networks are designed to prioritize active transportation, mobility for all residents is encouraged and this leads to improved health outcomes, better physical and mental well-being and greater opportunities for social connectedness.”
- 70% agree with working towards “reliable, better allocated parking, so that people know where they can go to find parking and they can be sure that a parking space will be waiting for them there”. Only 6% were against.
- There is a strong interest in improving transit and creating a robust park-and-ride system. 69% want to invest parking revenue into this; only 11% disagree.
- There is support for free commuter parking outside of the downtown in order to encourage use and leave core parking for short-term and residential parking.
- Day-rate commuter parking is slightly more popular than monthly permits. This likely reflects the needs of part-time workers.
- There is a strong desire to use the parkade entirely for all-day commuter parking.
- People want to pay for parking with an app, and prefer this over paystations.
- Improving active transportation infrastructure is seen by many as key to the parking strategy. This includes improving cycling ease-of-use as well as keeping sidewalks clear of snow and ice in the winter.
- There is some interest in reforming the residential parking permit system, but not as much support as staff expected.
There was broad discontent with long trucks, especially with snowmobiles, using angle parking. Although some people are frustrated by getting parking tickets, more respondents believed that there isn’t enough parking enforcement, especially in Lower Uphill. There is general dissatisfaction with the two-hour parking model in Lower Uphill, which work neither for residents (they cannot find parking) nor for commuters who are required to move their vehicles every two hours.