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New plan needed for pay parking: MacPherson

Revenues expected to come in $700,000 short in first year



Municipal staff are re-examining how to spend the money generated by pay parking, now that revenues in the day skier parking lots are coming up short.

Bob MacPherson, general manager of community life for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, said staff will wait until the winter season is over before making any changes, but at this point "winter would have to perform extremely well to cover the shortfall from the summer."

"We want to wait and see what the winter piece looks like," he stressed. "The parking lot is a very different business in the winter and the summer."

Over the past eight weeks, pay parking in the first three day skier lots generated about $260,000 in revenue, explained MacPherson. That number is only 65 per cent of what the municipality had hoped to reel in when the pay parking plan was put together in 2008.

If this trend continues, Whistler will only bring in about $1,300,000 this year through pay parking, compared to the $2 million municipal staff originally hoped to generate.

As a result, municipal staff are revising their original strategy.

"We are developing some contingencies," said MacPherson. "Like any business would do when revenues are not what was projected, you start to look at what costs you should take a second look at."

No final plans have been nailed down on how to deal with the predicted $700,000 shortfall, but MacPherson said proposals will likely be presented to council in the coming weeks.

When the pay-parking proposal was first put together, municipal staff hoped the revenue generated would be high enough to cover the construction bills for both the Fitzsimmons Creek debris barrier and paving the lots within a 20-year period.

Those two projects together totaled approximately $11.5 million.

This week though MacPherson said that 20-year time line will likely have to be lengthened.

"What we would want to look at doing is something like looking at a longer term payment schedule or starting payments later," said MacPherson. "We would do this without a budgetary impact to the Resort Municipality of Whistler."

It is also not clear yet what would happen to the $500,000 that municipal staff were hoping to annually put towards a transit affordability program for residents.

"That is something we would discuss with council," said MacPherson.

One of the reasons why it is so hard to entice parkers into Day Lots 1, 2 and 3 is because the two lots next door are free, added MacPherson when asked about the shortfall.

He compared the situation to a vendor charging $12 for a pizza when someone next door is giving pizza away for free.

But as municipal staff try to compensate for the revenue shortfall, MacPherson confirmed there are no plans to add pay parking to Lots 4 and 5.

He said since the idea was first presented to council and Whistler Blackcomb two years ago, there has been a clear understanding that the last two day skier lots would remain free.

"From a staff perspective, until such a time that council directs it to be pay parking, that is not something we would be advancing through our management committee," he said.



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