Marketplace parking lot facing capacity issues 

Marketplace store workers are taking away valuable parking spaces from their paying customers, according to parking operator Jim Watts.

He estimates about 20 per cent of the lot on average, roughly 50 stalls, is being used by the people who work in Marketplace.

"We pride ourselves in customer service up here in Whistler but we don’t seem to be doing the same thing when it comes to customers and parking," said Watts.

Watts, who operates a company called Fastpark, has been observing parking habits at the Marketplace for over a month. Customers are allowed to park there for two hours while they shop in the Marketplace.

Watts says there are already capacity issues with the 270 existing Marketplace stalls and Whistler is not even in peak season yet.

"If someone wants to go shopping there they should easily find a place to park," he said.

"We need to leave this parking for the people that need to go shopping."

His theory for the increased traffic in Marketplace is that workers used to park on Main Street and moved their vehicles every few hours to stay within the parking bylaw. But since the municipality installed parking meters on Main Street, they’ve moved elsewhere, right into the stalls in Marketplace.

"Our challenge at the Marketplace is trying to get the message out to the people that work there that if they parked over at Lot 4 it’s only a three minute walk and we’d be leaving room for our customers," said Watts.

"There’s so much parking over in Lot 4, I think all we’ll need to do is convince people to do the right thing."

If the Marketplace parking is left for the customers, Watts said, it’s likely to improve sales there because there will be increased customer turnover.

Watts uses the Royal Bank parking as an example.

That parking lot used to be paid parking until 6 p.m. and was free thereafter.

"It was a really good example of any time during the day you could always pull in there and get a spot until six o’clock," said Watts.

"And after six o’clock you could never get a spot there because all the people working in the village at night would scoot in there and stay there all night and you wouldn’t have any turnover."

Watts is not suggesting implementing paid parking in the Marketplace. He is merely highlighting the fact that paid parking increases turnover, which in turn increases sales.

"When paid parking is implemented, sales will generally improve because it’s more convenient for shoppers to get in and out and into the places of business," he said.

As far as the Marketplace is concerned, Watts said he would just like workers to take the extra time to park in Lot 4.

"We don’t want to give tickets," he said.

"We’d much rather see people doing the right thing and leaving the spots for the shoppers and also the clients."

On a larger scale, Watts said Whistler might be facing more parking difficulties this year than it has in previous years.

The Four Seasons is now standing in what was once Lot 5, which was a parking area that provided a lot of space for the Upper Village.

"That’s not available anymore. Everyone’s moving down to the lower lots so I think we’re going to see capacity issues there that are going to reverberate through the whole village," he said.

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