Pay parking is coming to Marketplace.
Last week, property manager Headwater Projects announced that, starting July 21, a new parking strategy would be introduced to the village lot that will offer drivers the first hour free. Following that, drivers will be charged $3 an hour if they pay by cash or credit, or $2 an hour if they pay by phone.
Five new parking metres will track vehicles' licence plates, meaning an attendant will no longer patrol the lot. The existing two-hour parking limit will remain in place, although drivers will have the option to return to the lot the same day provided they leave at least an hour between visits. Only one free parking session will be available per calendar day, and overnight parking is not permitted.
Headwater said the new pay model is intended to improve parking accessibility and increase vehicle turnover. The company expects the lot will accommodate 20-per-cent more vehicles on peak days.
"Over time, the availability of parking has become a great concern at Whistler's Marketplace. Our research and correspondence with tenants shows that the customer experience is being negatively impacted due to the lack of availability of parking stalls," said Headwater's Andrew Stevens.
Adding to the problem, according to Headwater, is that businesses outside of Marketplace have been "advertising and encouraging" customers to use the free lot, Stevens said.
While a handful of commenters supported the new system, saying it should help ease congestion in the lot and around the village, the bulk of responses Pique heard were not in favour of the pay scheme.
Cheakamus resident Jane MacPhail, who used to run a flower shop in Marketplace, called the move "a cash grab" that will negatively impact village business owners.
"I don't think it's quite fair to the merchants to begin with, especially if you're a restaurant," she said when reached by phone. "At the doctor's office, I have to wait longer than an hour sometimes; the hairdresser, the insurance people, sometimes there's a long lineup there." Headwater noted that 70 per cent of the vehicles that park at Marketplace are there for less than 45 minutes.
But Pepe Barajas, the owner-operator of Marketplace taco bar La Cantina, welcomed the move, saying it will benefit the customers who are "actually going to Marketplace, which is what the parking is intended to be for."
Appointment-based businesses may tell a different story, however, said Rhiannon Rogers, manager of Elevation Hair Studio.
"The majority of our appointments range from an hour to four hours, especially for our female clientele or if you have a number of kids coming in," she said.
Under the current system, Elevation has an arrangement in place that allows it to void parking tickets for clients who are at the salon longer than two hours. In response, Stevens said Headwater would continue to work with Marketplace tenants to accommodate customers with extended appointments.
MacPhail, a senior herself, also believes the system unfairly penalizes older residents who may not own a smartphone and are less prone to walk to the village from the free day lots — especially with a load of shopping in tow.
But Sue Lawther*, former president of the Whistler seniors group the Mature Action Community, believes those are relatively minor issues.
"If you don't have a smartphone, you've still got an hour's free parking. Go get your business done and then toodle off," she said. Lawther also encouraged seniors who may have difficulty walking from the day lots to get their shopping delivered through services such as Better At Home.
Locally owned company fastPark will manage the lot, and can be contacted for any questions or disputes at 604-938-4611 or email@example.com.
*An earlier version of this article noted Sue Lawther as the president of the Whistler Mature Action Community. She is in fact the former president, with Stacey Murl currently serving in the role.