Mayor: Pay parking compromise 'working' 

Revenues on track, costs lower than expected

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Despite the decision of the current council to pull pay parking meters from Lots 4 and 5 and change the rate structure for the Lots 1-3, revenues for the day skier lots are slightly ahead of projections for 2012.

According to Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, pay parking revenues were $514,128 through Aug. 31, or about 80 per cent of projected revenues with four months remaining. Further, Wilhelm-Morden said that operations costs for parking are only 60 per cent of what was projected for the year and could finish lower than what was forecast in the budget.

"To the extent that carries on and revenues exceed the operating costs, we will be able to make a contribution to our reserves and our transportation initiatives," she said.

"The fact that our costs are lower is a good thing, that's for sure, and it seems to be working well as far as both making some revenues on the day skier parking lots, but also providing some of those lots at no cost at all to the users."

Wilhelm-Morden and other members of council ran for council in November 2011 on platforms that included reopening the pay parking file. As of Nov. 1, 2011, pay parking was extended from Lots 1-3 to Lots 4 and 5.

Pay parking was first introduced in Summer 2010 as a way to pay back municipal reserves for the cost of paving the day lots, some $4.6 million, which became the property of the municipality in exchange for building a $6.9 million debris barrier on Fitzsimmons Creek to prevent flooding. That was itself part of wider dealings with the province, First Nations, Whistler Blackcomb and Olympic organizers in the run-up to the 2010 Winter Games.

At first, pay parking was only introduced in Lots 1-3, but it soon became clear that the lots would not generate much revenue for the municipality as long as a free option was available. The municipality weighed options and decided to expand pay parking to Lots 4 and 5 while offering incentives like passes to reduce the cost for locals and Whistler Blackcomb season pass holders.

From a revenue standpoint, the decision worked. In November 2011, while candidates were campaigning to get rid of pay parking, the day lots took in 45 per cent higher revenue than expected — $51,000, not including $40,000 in pass sales that had to be refunded when pay parking was removed in Lots 4 and 5.

Wilhelm-Morden originally campaigned to remove pay parking from Lots 2-5, but reached a compromise with other councilors and staff to return to the previous system, pay parking in Lots 1-3, with a few changes to costs.

Because of the different prices and timing, Wilhelm-Morden said on Monday that it's impossible to directly compare revenues from 2011 and 2012, but overall she's encouraged.

"It seems like we've got an effective compromise going on here," she said.

The cost of the debris barrier and paving the lots, over $11 million, will continue be covered by repayments into municipal reserves.

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