Maple Ridge should tweak its parking regulations in the downtown to make it easier to shop and easier to park.
Coun. Gordy Robson, who in 1991, helped form the Maple Ridge Downtown Parking Society, says enforcement of parking rules is too strict and it’s hurting business. While regulations are needed, so too is some relaxation.
Robson said that about seven years ago the parking society enforced parking limits in the downtown, a chore that was often seen as more educational than punitive, so that motorists knew the limits.
But with the city’s bylaws department now in charge, too many fines are being issued.
“These guys are so good you can be there for an hour and four minutes and you get a ticket. We didn’t do that when the downtown parking [society] ran it.
“They certainly aren’t helping with the way they are enforcing parking, that’s for sure,” Robson said.
“I think we are over zealous. It shouldn’t be looked at as revenue, it should be looked at as an education and be part of the customer experience and service.”
The downtown parking society was formed in order to provide parking lots for employees of downtown business, so they wouldn’t occupy storefront parking stalls.
Today, employees who work downtown continue to park where they shouldn’t.
The issue will become more top-of-mind when Walmart opens in Haney Place Mall this fall, drawing in more traffic downtown, Robson said.
“I think it’s going to get far worse when Walmart gets here.”
He favours expanding the underground parking lot beneath the Leisure Centre, which currently has 500 stalls, as part of redeveloping the core area.
Parking will always be an issue, said Coun. Craig Speirs.
“We’ve got lots of parking.”
But it’s important to ensure that there’s not too much parking because that creates too much asphalt.
He suggests that a long-term goal would be to build a parkade on city land near the Haney Place Mall.
However, concentrating any new stalls into one new parkade, would be too inconvenient for shoppers because it would be too far from other parts of downtown, says Bob Jones, president of the downtown parking society.
Speirs would also like to see some relaxation and creativity in parking in order to make it easier to shop.
“You want people to stay in the downtown for a few hours.”
He’d also like to see the city to offer free parking in its parkade beneath the Leisure Centre on Saturdays.
“The public relations and the goodwill and the benefit to the downtown would be immense.”
Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association executive-director Ineke Boekhorst said there’s enough parking in the downtown, even when Walmart opens in Haney Place Mall this fall.
What has to improve is informing people where those parking stalls are in order to make it easier to stay downtown. Better signage with maps, diagrams and explanation is key. In European cities, big signs make it clear at the entrances to downtown where people can park.
“We know there are more than 6,000 spots in the downtown.
“It’s just that they’re not in the right place.”
Boekhorst says there are exactly 6,790 parking stalls within the BIA boundaries, including staff parking.
And she notes that parking anywhere on Maple Ridge streets, except for the underground parking lot below the Leisure Centre, is free.
But there are time limits of either one-hour, two-hours in the core area, although just few blocks from the core area, you can park all day.
She said one-hour parking limits are needed to ensure there’s space outside restaurants or other businesses so people can move in and out.
“It’s still free parking. Go downtown Vancouver, you can’t park anywhere.”
But she’d also like to see some relaxation of parking enforcement by the city’s bylaws departments. “We could have a little more flexibility.”
Boekhorst pointed out that the BIA has asked Mayor Nicole Read if the downtown parking society could resume parking enforcement.
“But it hasn’t gone anywhere.”
Boekhorst added that people parking in the unused parking lot in the former Target parking lot, are getting ticketed, and she wonders why. “They’re ticketing people in the parking lot while there’s nothing going on that side.” The mall is currently undergoing an ownership change.
The city, the BIA and the parking society all should cooperate and find ways to improve parking downtown, said Jones. He also wants to expand the underground parking beneath the civic buildings and open them to the public, not just users of the city buildings.
He too says enforcement “can be a little more forgiving.
“We need a lot more parking (conveniently located) because people don’t like to walk.”
When Haney Place Mall expanded for the new Target store a few years ago, it encroached on to the parking lot, reducing the number of stalls, so there are actually fewer parking spots than 20 years ago, he said.
“The thing is, a more comprehensive plan has to be done.”