To understand how the municipality reached its current $2.8 million shortfall, a general overview of various contributing factors was given in last week's Pique .
In a nutshell, the municipality's preliminary budgetary shortage has been caused by underperformance in pay parking coupled with higher-than-expected transit fees, the cold reality of build-out, strata hotel tax complications and aging infrastructure maintenance costs.
To ease the situation in part, the municipality needs more people to take the bus while increasing use of pay parking. They collect the revenue from each but to a certain degree, one cancels the other out. If people are parking they are not using transit. If they're putting loonies in fare boxes, they're not in need of parking. Increasing profits in both areas will be tricky, but necessary if the Resort Municipality of Whistler is going to mitigate a rise in taxes.
Dollars or environment?
From the outset, pay parking was meant to discourage the use of single occupancy vehicles, encourage carpooling, and support transit affordability and access. That it was also expected to draw a cool $2 million per year into public coffers was a major bonus. However, the public is skirting the user fees and choosing to park anywhere else, and because of this only 46 per cent of anticipated revenue earmarked for transit will be realized. The economic effects don't stop at the municipal government level - some village businesses say that when fewer people choose to park close by to avoid the cost, it has a big ripple effect.
"I would have to say it's a negative thing for my customers. They're having to walk all the way from Pemberton to the village when they park in the winter in slippery ski boots," said Fanatyk Co Bike and Ski co-owner, Scott Humby, who rents a parking spot under the Holiday Inn.
"I drive by the lots every day on my way to work and last Saturday there were 15,000 skier visits and there were like 30 cars in the parking lot, so there's definitely people complaining or they're parking in Creekside rather than the village or they're parking at Base Two instead of the village, which at the end of the day can definitely affect your foot traffic.
Whistler Blackcomb runs both the RMOW-owned pay parking lots and a number of free parking lots near the mountains, including 1,400 spaces at Creekside and Lots 6, 7 and 8. Visitors and locals alike are seeking out these areas instead of paying the $8/day winter fee in Lots 1, 2 and 3. WB President and COO, Dave Brownlie says their free lots have been more than a little busy but he expects things to even out as the season wears on.