The City of Vancouver, C-Tran and Vancouver’s Downtown Assoc. are working to find a better parking solution for downtown employees than pumping a meter and trying to keep ahead of the meter maid.
They want a safe, affordable and convenient solution, and are considering implementing satellite parking with transportation to downtown to ease congestion and keep parking spaces open for downtown shoppers, said Linda Glover, vice president of the VDA and project manager at Divine Consign, which is located downtown.
This spring, the VDA distributed a parking survey aimed at downtown employers and employees to gauge what both groups want and will use.
About 150 downtown employees voiced their opinions, along with 17 downtown business owners.
The survey found that now, 78 percent of employees drive or carpool to work – of which 30 percent travel six to 10 miles and 8 percent travel 26 miles or more to work.
About 5 percent said they regularly carpool, 3 percent use mass transit and 5 percent bike.
Employees were generally split on whether a satellite lot is a worthwhile solution.
• bull;53 percent said they would use a park-and-ride or satellite parking lot, and 46 percent indicated 10 minutes is a reasonable travel time to and from the lot and work.
• bull;73 percent said they would be willing to pay an “affordable amount” to park monthly at an employee lot: 44 percent said “affordable” means $15 or less; 13 percent said $15 to $20; and 14 percent said $20 to $25 is acceptable. 2 percent indicated $60 to $65 is doable.
• bull;63 percent said they are unwilling to pay a “marginal amount” to use a bus between the lot and work, while 73 percent said they would use the service if it were free.
• bull;Almost 40 percent said they now pay $15 or less per month to park, with 17 percent paying $35 to $40 and 0.7 percent paying $90 or more.
The law firm of Greenan & Greenan, 1104 Main St., indicated that it provides parking in a lot for $15 or less for each of 10 employees each month – none of whom administrators thought would use a satellite lot.
The firm suggested a few strategically placed parking garages, saying that the satelliet lot project would likely be a waste of taxpayer money.
Briz Loan & Guitar, 506 Washington St., provides on-street parking at $20 to $25 per employee for each of its four employees, and said the space it has is inadequate – especially since the Hilton opened.
But the shop, too, responded that none of its employees were likely to use the service.
A common concern from other employers was for employees who need vehicles throughout the day for meetings, appointments and deliveries.
While unable to help pay for a satellite lot as a nonprofit co-op, Traci Donahue of the Sixth Street Gallery indicated almost all of the 16 volunteers who work there would utilize the service.
“We would all like to have a safe place to park where we didn't have to worry about tickets all day and to also free up spaces for customers downtown,” she wrote.
Parking is always a major topic of conversation at the monthly Heart District meetings, said Glover, who leads the meetings.
Employers don’t want their employees parking in front of the business, to leave spaces open for customers, but downtown parking is getting scarce – especially at lunchtime.
As it stands, downtown is the only place in Vancouver that requires payment to park, and most people who work downtown and pay for parking are part-timers, Glover said. The city offers lot and on-street parking permits, but she said it doesn’t make sense for them to pay $30 to $70 each month for a city permit or to park in a private lot.
The city recently approved meter rate increases from 35 cents an hour at most meters to 50 cents, which will likely go into effect by late summer.
“This is a very valid concern,” said Michael Jacobs, parking manager for the city of Vancouver. “Every city has an issue with employees parking in downtown and moving from stall to stall, which takes away from customer parking.”
Changes are on the way
C-Tran is gearing up to vacate the Seventh Street transfer center downtown, moving operations to the new park-and-ride facility in Hazel Dell, effective Sept. 30.
Starting then, all transfer activity will take place along Broadway Street, quickly moving bus traffic through downtown. All layover activity will take place in Hazel Dell and Fisher’s Landing, said Lynn Halsey, director of operations for C-Tran.
It is up to the VDA to find viable lots for the project. Glover said the group will wait until the bus changes go into effect to gauge what changes it may have caused. Until then, the group is pouring its efforts into employee education.
“I think the express routes will alleviate a lot of problems,” she said.
Halsey said he thinks a park-and-ride option is completely feasible as long as the VDA picks a lot along an existing core route.
At this time, there hasn’t been talk of a reduced rate for downtown employees, such as an employer pass, but Halsey said anything’s possible.
Glover said she wasn’t surprised by much of the survey results and was encouraged by the number of employees willing to consider a mass-transit alternative to parking downtown.
She added that it is doubly encouraging that employers may be willing to foot some of the bill.
“It’s a change in lifestyle, which is not easy,” Glover said. “Part of being downtown is being urban, and that includes paying for parking, but people making these wages will go somewhere else and get a job where they don’t have to pay to park.
“It’s part of urban growth, and we’re experiencing growing pains. We all need to learn how to deal with the space we’re in.”
Jacobs said finding a lot and establishing a solid system is attainable.
“Changing people’s behavior to use public transit is a whole other issue,” he said. “I think this is a great project because it brings an alternative to people who work downtown, and as parking rates begin to go up – and they will continue to increase – it’s important for employees to have options.”
‘Most employees won’t use lot’
Changing the system is one thing, changing human behavior is entirely another.
Downtown Vancouver employers surveyed said they thought half or fewer of their employees would use a satellite lot.
About half of the employers surveyed said they provide parking for their employers, and 53 percent said they would be willing to partially subsidize a satellite lot and transportation to and from the lot and work.
Similarly, 62.5 percent said they would be willing to monitor and enforce employee use of a satellite lot to reduce the number of employees parking in metered on-street spaces.
Almost 30 percent said $15 or less is a reasonable cost per employee for the service, with 35 percent indicating they would pay $25 to $30 per employee.
Who parks where?
Downtown employees (survey of 150)