Pay parking hurting businesses, survey says 

Only 26 per cent of respondents conducted an assessment of impact

A survey by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce suggests that pay parking has had a significant impact on business.

The Chamber commissioned a survey of its members in late March asking them about pay parking initiatives in Day Lots 1 to 3, including a new proposal for the lots. Results were released this week.

Of the 798 Chamber members, 114 filled out the survey. Of those, 64 per cent were from the main and Upper Village while 36 per cent were from outside this area.

Sixty-eight per cent of respondents reported a drop in revenue between the 2008/2009 and the 2010/2011 winter seasons. Sixty-three per cent of respondents, meanwhile, saw revenue decrease in the summer of 2010 compared to the summer of 2009.

Respondents pointed to various causes for the change in business level from April 1, 2010. Pay parking was fourth on the list. Seventy-nine per cent of respondents pointed to lower destination visitor numbers as having a negative impact, 78 per cent pointed to a strong Canadian dollar and 75 per cent pointed to lower spending habits by visitors and customers. Sixty-one per cent pointed to pay parking as having a negative impact.

At the same time, however, most respondents said they didn't conduct a business assessment of the impacts of pay parking. Seventy-four per cent responded that they hadn't done any assessment while only 26 per cent carried one out.

Of the 26 per cent that conducted an assessment, 34 per cent said they didn't know precisely what impact pay parking has had on their business volumes. Twenty-two per cent stated it hit them "very negatively" and 21 per cent reported it hit them "somewhat negatively." Most used customer feedback to gauge response.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler and Whistler Blackcomb, which manages the Day Skier Lots, implemented pay parking in the spring of 2010, after ownership of the lots was transferred from the province to the local government as part of a 2010 Land Legacy Agreement.

Current fees for parking in Lots 1-3 are $8 a day in the winter and $12 a day in the summer, and $5 in the evenings. The hourly rate is $2. Lots 4 and 5 remain free.

A proposed change would see the day rate extended to Lots 4 and 5.

The municipality originally hoped that the initiative would generate $2 million in revenue annually - to cover capital and operating costs as well as repay the cost of improvements in the Day Lots and the cost of the debris barrier. It was also hoped that revenue could go towards supporting community transportation initiatives such as public transit.

However, pay parking is now expected to generate about $1 million in its first year.

Respondents were also asked to rank user-pay parking options, with the understanding that the municipality needs to generate $1.375 million in annual revenue from pay parking.

The four options given were:

1. Implement user-pay parking fees in Day Lots 1-5 with current rates.

2. Implement user-pay parking fees in Day Lots 1-5 with new proposed rates.

3. Implement no charge parking in Day Lots 1-5 and raise budgeted revenue through a business property tax increase for all Whistler businesses.

4. Reduce user pay parking fees on Day Lots 1-5 and fund budgeted revenue shortfall through a business property tax increase for all Whistler businesses.

5.None of these choices

The first choice of 40 per cent of the respondents was #5, none of the options presented.



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