A new downtown parking strategy that recommends more city-owned parking lots, investment in parking garages and increased time limits has caught the eyes of a couple Saskatoon city councillors and business groups.
The Comprehensive Downtown Parking Strategy will be presented to the Transportation Committee Monday. The year and a half long study looked at Saskatoon’s current parking needs in several downtown areas and what would be needed as the city continues to grow. The study was prepared by Toronto-based BA Group and Saskatoon’s CIMA+.
One if its main recommendations was the city should own and manage a bigger portion of the parking supply, a move Coun. Charlie Clark agrees with.
“If there’s more parking that the city has managed, then the city can be more adaptive in being strategic about making that available for the different needs the public has,” he said.
Saskatoon currently manages 23 per cent of the city’s 20,634 downtown parking spaces, most of which are on-street parking, compared to several Ontario cities such as Waterloo (70 per cent), Oshawa (70 per cent), Oakville (60 per cent), Brampton (57 per cent) and Kitchener (44 per cent), the report said.
“This city becoming involved in the development of more off-street parking is going to be necessary as the city grows,” Coun. Mairin Loewen said.
Parking issues were one of the reasons the Downtown Improvement District formed, according to executive director Brent Penner, who agrees with the recommendation.
The report also suggests large cities like Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto get a lot of revenue from parking. However, at this point in the process it’s unclear how the city would increase its portion of parking.
Penner said he is not sure how it could be accomplished with on-street parking, which leads to the study’s second recommendation that the city invest in more parking garages.
Although there are still many parking spots available downtown during peak hours, many are not located where people want them to be. Several city and privately owned lots were highlighted in the report as possible locations for parkades including publicly owned land between Idylwyld Drive and the Farmer’s Market, at the corner of Idylwyld Dr. and 22nd Street, and on the former Police headquarters land.
While Clark supports the idea of more parking structures, he doesn’t want stand alone garages. Whether above or below ground, Clark would like to see businesses on the ground level.
“You’re getting more value out of the land overall, but you’re still allowing for parking,” he said.
The study identified 22 possible sites that could house parking structures and mixed-use development including the Midtown lot across from TCU Place which they suggest could house a mix of parking, retail, business and residential space.
It also suggests increasing parking time limits to three hours for on-street parking everywhere including in front of the Scotiabank Theatre, and to two hours for the rest of 2nd Avenue and 21st Street.
“One of the concerns I think that stresses people out is that if they want to go to a movie or a meal and a hair cut and they only have an hour and a half of parking, they get tickets and that turns people away,” Clark said.
Other suggestions including reducing the number of spaces reserved for one person, allow developers to pay a tax in lieu of creating parking spaces with the money going to a parking fund,
The need to integrate parking with the city’s future transit plans and continue to target a 15 per cent increase in non-car transit was also stressed in the report.
Clark said he wants to know if it’s possible to use new technologies to help people find parking spots faster or increase accessibility for handicapped residents.
Loewen would also like to explore how some of the recommendations could be funded and how they fit into the Growth Plan to Half a Million and Transit Plan.
Penner said he hopes the study will lead to action in the near future and not sit idle on city-shelves.
The report will be discussed in committee and sent to the city administration for further review, recommendations and cost-analysis.