Pay parking grinds gears of downtown Penticton merchants

Click to play video: 'Pay parking irks merchants'
Pay parking irks merchants
Visitors to Main Street shops in downtown Penticton were historically greeted with free parking... but not anymore. The city's $2-per-hour pay stations are now live and some merchants say it's already driving away business as they try to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Shelby Thom reports. – Jun 8, 2021

The City of Penticton’s newly implemented paid parking regime on Main Street is already grinding the gears of downtown merchants.

Historically, visitors were greeted with free parking along the shopping corridor. But now, street parking is $2-per-hour, or 25 cents per seven minutes.

Eva Poloskey, owner of Accent Chocolate along the 500 block of Main Street, said it’s driving away customers.

“Whoever got a ticket already, they said they are never going to come back. And so far they didn’t, and we saw the drop in business,” she told Global News.

Poloskey takes issue with the paid parking system along Main Street.

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The city opted for pay stations located at the end of each block, in lieu of the more traditional coin meters near each street stall.

“They could have put just the meter, put a quarter in or whatever they like, the old-fashioned way; that would be much easier.”

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Erin Beck, the operator of The Care Closet, agreed the pay station method is confusing, inconvenient and inaccessible for customers, many of whom are elderly.

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“Penticton is a retirement city. We have a lot of people who have mobility issues and most of them want to pay, so they are going to pay. But by the time they get back, they’re ticketed,” she said.

Beck said the city should have delayed the rollout of paid parking on Main Street until the economy was fully reopened in a post-pandemic world.

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“It should definitely have been delayed,” she said.

“I don’t think it should be happening at all when you have a city council proposing to say, ‘We want you to come down and park, but you have to pay $2 an hour to do this,’ when you can go to a mall, and not pay anything.”

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The city said implementing pay parking was necessary to recoup losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and create equity across the city’s parking system.

“For example, if you wanted to go for a pasta dinner at the pasta factory, historically you would have to pay, whereas if you went to one of the restaurants on Main Street, like Mykonos, it would be free,” said Blake Laven, the city’s director of development services.

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“Parking is a very valuable taxpayer-owned asset, and for the city to manage that asset well, paid parking is the most convenient way of doing that.”

The city plans to triple its revenue by expanding paid parking to Main St., Ellis St., Front St., Nanaimo Ave., and Padmore Ave.

The city budgeted $900,000 for metered parking and parking lot revenue in 2021, up from $308,000 in 2019.

“The decision to put the pay parking in was made last year. Obviously, with the pandemic over the winter and the third wave, we didn’t anticipate it being as devastating as it was,” Laven said in response to concerns about the implementation timing.

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David Mullner has started an online petition lobbying the city to reinstate free downtown parking.

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“Since the installation of the parking meters in downtown Penticton, we, as business owners, have seen a significant decrease in our business activity, and therefore, in our revenue,” Mullner wrote.

“The streets in the downtown area, which were once very busy, are now deserted by pedestrians who no longer bother to walk around the city, since they can no longer park for free.”

Paid parking is in effect Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with rates of $2 per hour.

Residents who are looking for longer downtown parking options may purchase monthly or annual parking permits for city lots through the cashiers at city hall.

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