A slew of downtown parking changes presented to Brandon City Council on Monday are aimed at modernizing the city’s parking system in hopes of making the area more inviting.
Elisabeth Saftiuk, executive director of the Brandon Downtown Development Corporation, said the changes are aimed at giving Brandonites a more positive downtown experience.
"While we have a lot of parking spaces downtown there is this perception that perhaps downtown doesn’t have sufficient parking and it’s really just ensuring we’re communicating effectively with the public," she said before the meeting.
A wide variety of recommendations were made by the ad hoc parking committee over the last few months, including maintaining current parking rates as long as possible, continuing with free parking after 4 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends and exploring digital payment for parking. Residents were especially in favour of the free parking, she said.
The report also recommends adding more angled parking, like that on Ninth Street. Allowing cars to park at an angle, rather than directly in line with the curb, allows for more parking but reduces the street to a one-way.
"I think that (angled parking) has been very well received in our downtown," she said. "Ninth Street, where angled parking has been implemented, has been well received by both the public and businesses."
Modernizing the parking system is also a key priority, she said, which includes allowing people to pay with credit cards. Currently, people parking downtown need coins to feed the meters, but cities around the world have moved to an electronic system that allows drivers to pay with card or their phone.
"We really do need to find a way that we can facilitate the use of credit cards in terms of paid parking downtown," she said. "We’re looking to create just a better user system downtown."
The recommendations come after a report was first written by parking consulting company Level G and Associates in 2012. Saftiuk said resident and business surveys earlier this year were sent out to make sure the recommendations outlined in the report still hold up seven years later.
The list of 10 recommendations also calls to look at temporarily removing parking spaces to create restaurant patios, consulting on extending the amount of time drivers can park at meters and possibly installing signs showing where free parking is available.
The public was strongly in favour of extending how long cars can park in front of a meter, Saftiuk said, but business owners were not.
During the meeting on Monday evening, Coun. Kris Desjarlais (Rosser), who represents the neighbourhood, said there was "universal consensus" in the ad hoc committee to create more angled parking.
"It’s about where we’re going to put it and having funds in the budget," he said.
Residents will start to see positive results that come with the parking changes in the coming year and a shift in the perceptions about downtown, Desjarlais said.
Saftiuk also outlined a recommendation during the meeting to create a Parking Benefit District downtown, where revenue from meters would be used to improve public infrastructure. Acting city manager and city treasurer Dean Hammond said downtown parking meters generate approximately $200,000 in revenue each year.
The timeline on each recommendation varies, but Saftiuk said some, like maintaining the current meter rates, can be done right away.
One of the biggest-ticket items on the list is to improve the city-owned parking lot at 1201 Pacific Ave., which currently looks like a vacant lot. She said there are some "reasonable improvements" the city can do to make it more usable and accessible for free parking.
"There are certain changes we would want to be undertaking right away in the spring in terms of painting, some minor landscaping, that kind of thing and some signage," she said.
All the recommendations depend on when funding becomes available in the city’s budget but the improvements to 1201 Pacific Ave. could happen next spring or summer. Council will consider funding for the changes in the 2020 and 2021 budgets.
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