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Council to review pay parking

Task handed to EPI Committee for attention



After seemingly putting the issue of paid parking to rest on its first day in office, council is now reopening that controversial can of worms.

Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden floated the idea to her team at Tuesday's regular council meeting after receiving an updated report on the revenues and expenses for the day lots in 2012.

While there were no surprises in that report — revenues were $712,000, enough to cover costs and put money into reserves but not enough to boost transit initiatives — there was enough evidence from the past year to prompt a rethink on the issue and perhaps come up with better solutions.

"Again, for me personally, this isn't about a revenue generating project," explained the mayor in a phone interview. "To me, this is about the guest experience.

"I still don't think we've got this right."

She pointed to the empty paid lots in the winter and the cars crammed along the side of the road up Blackcomb Mountain, all trying to access the free lots.

"We really need to step back in my view and look at parking with a more comprehensive view," said Wilhelm-Morden at the council meeting.

Looking around at her colleagues she added: "I don't know whether there's an appetite for it."

There was no resounding rush to revisit the debate but some members of council echoed her concerns.

"I'm loathe... to take a run at parking," said Councillor Jayson Faulkner. "And I'm only running one term!... I think we can do a better job at parking."

Councillor Duane Jackson also agreed with the mayor. "Parking is an issue that is not going away," he said.

At municipal CAO Mike Furey's suggestion, council agreed to put the issue before the Economic Partnership Initiative (EPI) committee made up of key resort players including the president and CEO of Tourism Whistler and the president and CEO of Whistler Blackcomb.

The EPI committee will be tasked with not only looking at the municipal day lots but also looking at parking as a whole, from private lots to paid lots to free spaces.

In his report to council, Bob MacPherson, general manager of corporate and community life, outlined the financials of pay parking in 2012. It was a $1.5 million revenue generator, with half of that coming from the day lots.

The day lot parking program cost almost $450,000 to run last year with the largest portion of that ($245,500) going to Whistler Blackcomb to maintain the lots. A total of $43,800 has been spent on consulting over the past three years.

When asked by councillors if that cost could be trimmed by doing the work "in house," MacPherson said estimates from 18 months ago were that the municipality couldn't do it for less.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) claimed more than $145,000 in expenses, ranging from the cost of enforcement to machine supplies, hydro expenses and credit card fees.

After paying $125,000 into reserves, which act as a savings account for future upgrades for the day lots, there was just under $140,000 left over. That money went to paying back the capital costs of the $4.6 million day-lot paving project.

While the revenues were $65,000 ahead of projections for the year, there was still nothing left for community transportation.

That was expected after council reintroduced free parking in some of the day lots upon taking office.

The municipality also owns or controls about 500 spaces of additional pay parking throughout the village from Main Street to the conference centre. Meter revenue for 2012 was $776,718, down $26,000 from the previous year.

"There's never good news with respect to parking," said MacPerson. "It's a million and a half dollars per year and it deserves attention."