New Westminster News Leader

Better parking signage needed Downtown

At least last week's open house on Downtown New Westminster parking recognized better means of pointing drivers in the right direction is needed said a business owner in the area.

Harm Woldring of The Wine Factory, a vice-president on the Downtown Business Improvement Area executive, said one of the better parts of the discussion held at city hall last Wednesday was about signage.

"There's definitely been some acknowledgments of the need for better wayfinding," said Woldring. "People can't find parking in New Westminster because the signage sucks. There's no parking for bicycles, there's no shared vehicle parking such as for co-op cars."

Senior planner Mark Allison admitted there does appear to be a need for signage to tell drivers where parking is so they won't have to circle around the block.

The city's consultants, Urban Systems, proposed parking strategies to address the issues that have plagued the area for years including the fate of the Front Street parkade, which Coun. Jonathon Coté said continues to be the "lightning rod" issue.

Strategies for the structure that is more than 50 years old include investing in alternative infrastructure, adjusting the prices charged, demolishing half the of the parkade within five years while maintaing the remaining half until about 2030.

"You can't fully get rid of that but certainly there are a number of things you can do to make it a lot more comfortable and a lot more esthetically pleasing," said Coté in an interview.

Getting rid of any or all of the parkade is something the BIA has opposed for a long time.

Allison said where there are parking shortages there changes to the pricing mechanisms that could be implemented to make sure there's enough spaces available.

"We don't want to provide too much or to provide too little," said Allison.

He pointed out the dependence on the parkade could be reduced by the addition of parking in new developments. Some of it is already being underused at the Plaza 88 complex and at Douglas College, he said, and more will become available when the Anvil Centre and Merchant Square office building are completed.

"There's a surprising amount of space there when development happens," said Allison. "Human nature is to get as close as you can to your destination and as well as some drivers want to go in someplace safe so they'll seek a higher-priced stall on the street."

Although he hasn't checked with police recently, there haven't been too many incidents of break-ins or threats to personal safety in parking garages these days.

Allison said lots of parking doesn't necessarily translate into a booming business district. He pointed out Vancouver's Robson Street and Commercial Drive thrive because they are attractive, dynamic retail areas and not because they're plenty of parking.

The consultants and city staff will incorporate the feedback from the open house to make a presentation to council. A final report is scheduled to be done by April.

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