LETTER: Encourage alternative transportation before building parking lots

So perhaps it was because it was Bike to Work Week, maybe the wonderful weather or the staff of all the shops in Sidney took time off during the week.

Who knows what it was, but I had the opportunity to observe the usage rate of the town’s new parking lot that holds 167 spaces. Mostly, I saw about 20 or so vehicles in it.

READ ALSO: Sidney’s new parking lot officially opens

Talking with a couple of folks who work in the shops, it is easy to see why it is not being used more and why the town’s strategy of increasing the supply of parking by spending money to build more free parking isn’t working. The folks I talked to said that they liked where they parked and didn’t feel like they had to use it, so they didn’t. Fair enough.

READ ALSO: Sidney’s free new parking lot aims to stimulate business and help squeezed workers

No doubt it will fill up as demand outstrips supply occasionally such as when the Mary Winspear Centre puts on a good show, as they often do, but the truth remains that until people are incentivised to use these facilities through paying for on-street parking, they won’t.

One would never have to worry about finding an open space in our downtown if the rates were set so that it was the minimum amount to keep one or two spaces per block open. This is known as demand-responsive pricing and rates on average are less expensive than fixed rate areas. Other cities create buy-in from adjacent businesses and residents by giving back net parking revenue.

Folks often think that when they pay a meter, they are paying the government, but the truth is they are paying other folks to park farther away, take transit, walk, cycle or come at a less congested time.

READ ALSO: Central Saanich councillor wants free transit for all

Either way, the town could have saved taxpayers some money by not building this lot, encouraged people to use healthier forms of transportation and reduced contaminated storm water runoff.

All of these things we say we want to do, and we can. It just takes good policy.

Eric Diller

Sidney

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