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Parking needs Downtown changing

The Front Street parkade doesn
The Front Street parkade doesn't get much use, according to a study of Downtown parking.
— image credit: NEWSLEADER FILE

Illegal parking, the improper use of loading zones and the inconsistent placement of meters are some of the issues identified in a study by Urban Systems on parking in Downtown New Westminster.

The results of the study, commissioned by the city to help prepare a parking strategy for Downtown, were released at a community open house on Thursday. It looked at parking availability and the turnover of spaces in six precincts from Royal Avenue to the waterfront, from Stewardson Way to McBride Boulevard.

Other issues identified by the study include a lack of parking for bikes and carshare programs, difficulty finding parking and the proximity of parking.

But the president of the Downtown Business Improvement Association said the area’s parking needs are changing as more residents move in.

“We’re not competing with a mall,” said Kendra Johnston. “A lot of people walk.”

And those merchants that are a destination for shoppers from afar, like the bridal stores along Columbia Street, tend to attract determined customers.

“We do have a lot of destination shops here,” said Johnston. “If you’re coming in for those, you’re going to find a parking spot, you’re not going to give up.”

One merchant said he thinks worries about Downtown parking have been “blown out of proportion. There really isn’t a parking supply issue.”

He said the bigger problem might be the mindset of some merchants who like to think of the Downtown as a shopping mall that relies on customers who drive in from neighbouring communities.

“You have a changing demographic,” said the merchant, who asked his name not be used. “We’re not a regional shopping centre. Businesses need to realize who their customers are.”

It’s hoped the results of the study and input from the community at two open houses will help formulate a new vision for Front Street, to make it more pedestrian friendly by replacing the waterfront parkade with decentralized parking throughout Downtown.

Less than half the parkade’s 759 available spots are used during weekdays and only 20 per cent of them are occupied on Saturdays, said the study.

Meanwhile, parking along Westminster Quay is at a premium, peaking at 84 per cent capacity on weekdays and 98 per cent on Saturdays.

Other busy locations during the week include the area around the Westminster SkyTrain station and along Carnarvon Street between Begbie and Fourth streets. There, available parking stalls are 90 per cent filled between 12:30 and 1 p.m.

On Saturdays, parking spots along Columbia Street from Begbie to Fourth Street are more than 90 per cent occupied.

Most parking spots in the Downtown turn over in less than an hour on both weekdays and weekends.

A second public open house to examine suggestions for Downtown parking will be held in November and a presentation to council is scheduled for December.

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