Park and Rec
Council ponders parking upgrade
For years, the small municipal lot on the east and west ends of Market Lane, to the north of Main Street in Picton, have been free. Recently, so has parking on Main Street, when it’s been available. With the construction and rehabilitation on Main Street, the parking meters had been removed, temporarily.
If a proposal made by the County’s planning department is approved, temporary will become permanent, as Picton steps into the world of modern technology with pay and display meters.
The new system would allow the municipality to determine and program time and season options onto its meters. It would also allow users to pay by tapping their cards or on their smart phones.
The staff report proposed installing the stations on Main Street as well as in Market Lane. The new and rarely used parking lot on King Street, as well as the lot on Mary Street, would remain free.
The 22 proposed meters would cost an initial $200,000 with about $15,000 in annual maintenance and monitoring. Staff says that money would be recouped in five years by an increase in fees and fines. If Main Street parking fees are raised to $1 per hour, planning staff have estimated the 120 parking spaces on Main Street would bring in revenue of about $75,000 annually, not including fines.
Councillor Lenny Epstein, who represents council on Picton’s business improvement area (BIA) board, said the group largely favours a two-hour parking limit, with $1 hourly parking on Main Street and 50 cents per hour in Market Lane. The group also proposed raising fines to ensure compliance.
The move was discussed at a committee of council last Thursday at Shire Hall. There was plenty of support for paid parking, partly for the revenue, but also as a measure to protect parking spots that are a rare commodity, especially in the height of the tourist season, from being taken up all day by non-consumers.
Sophiasburgh councillor Kevin Gale also brought up the concern that pay and display stations would displace the coin meters, a feature he considers heritage on a street that has been declared a heritage district by the municipality.
“I can’t get my head around pay and display machines,” Gale told council. “All my life there’s been meters on Main Street, Picton. Always. And it’s an old town, and all of a sudden, to do what we’re doing, from a heritage point of view… I don’t think that’s right. I think that goes against heritage.”
Hillier councillor Steve Graham thought the idea of pay and display stations would be worthwhile.
“I like the pay and display. You can pay and display and park out front, and you can drive to the other end of Main Street and not have to bother with putting more coin in. And people don’t have coin in their pockets all the time. You can also use a credit card. And whenever I use those, I hit max time. So you can drive more revenue by having the pay and display,” said Graham.
Mayor Robert Quaiff agreed, adding that removing coin meters would make winter sidewalk clearing much more efficient.
Planning head Robert McAuley says the machines are a logical 21st century adaptation for a busy destination.
“Increasingly, more people are using their phones as a method of payment, and a pay and display machine is consistent with that. It can use that,” McAuley told council. “You don’t even have to be at a machine to pay. Which means if you’re in the middle of a store, buying something, you can edit your parking time with your phone, as opposed to having to excuse yourself from a vendor and run to a unit.”
McAuley also explained that the recommendations the BIA makes would only be implementable with such machines which, unlike coin meters, are programmable.
Once the discussion had ended, council chose to hold off on making a decision until later this month, giving the BIA a chance to come forward with a report.
McAuley warned that a decision has to be made soon. The final touches are now being put on Main Streets reconstruction project. That contract includes installing meters, but once the workers are finished, the option will be off the table.
“We are now at a point where we have to decide to either put the older ones up and exercise the contract or remove that part from the contract and incur a cost outside of the contract at some later date to make a decision,” McAuley said. “If council defers to next meeting, I suggest a decision must be made at next meeting, or the contract on Main Street will have passed us by as far as putting any meters back in under that contract.