The St. Catharines Downtown Parking Study opines that there is adequate long-term parking in Downtown St. Catharines and that, in the future, it will be necessary to increase the parking available to accommodate the average rate of growth that will be seen through the Place to Grow initiatives. However, there is, in fact, already a shortage of long-term parking available to businesses which is deterring prospective businesses from relocating or opening in the downtown core, while the overflow may be deterring customers from patronizing existing downtown businesses.
The objective of the St. Catharines Downtown Parking Study is to assess the current parking situation in downtown St. Catharines and to propose recommendations for the forecasted levels of growth over the next twenty years. The report states that there is an adequate amount of parking, but accommodations could be made to existing lots to increase use of available lots. However, City staff have identified that there is a wait-list for parking permits. Despite the discrepancy between available and potentially available long-term parking, there will be a need to expand available parking over the next twenty years to accommodate projected downtown growth.
We note that the St. Catharines Downtown Association states, conversely, that there is a current need for parking and there will be greater need once empty office spaces are occupied by new businesses. According to the Downtown Association, there are five properties in the core with vacant space totalling 216,886 sq.ft., which we have assumed to be gross leasable floor area. Current by-laws outside the downtown area would require 720 parking spaces for this square footage at a rate of one space per 28 square meters of gross leasable floor area. There are currently no long-term spaces to meet this need. There is a somewhat urgent need to increase long-term parking to accommodate individuals working downtown. Without parking infrastructure appropriate to the need, business development will be stymied.
The study separates downtown St. Catharines into four zones. Each zone has unique requirements, and as such has different kinds of parking available. Zone Two has the highest concentration of parking facilities. Here, we echo the concerns of the Downtown Association inasmuch as Zone Two must be segregated for weekday parking, the primary concern of downtown merchants, as the acceptable walking distance from parking to destination is 320 metres. By allotting Zone Two weekday parking, downtown businesses maintain access to short-term parking to accommodate their patrons. However, there is still a need to increase long-term parking for businesses in Zone Two.
There is a need to create new long-term parking not just for future expansion but to support businesses and business capacity in the present while maintaining current access for employees, patrons, and attendees of special events.
The Parking Study proposes many recommendations to address downtown parking. The GNCC broadly endorses the recommendations in the Parking Study that the Downtown Association supports. The recommendations are as follows:
- Convert underutilized short-term meter parking spaces to long-term permit spaces after consultation with local businesses
- Consider additional long-term parking supply in the near future, such as adding additional floors on to the Carlisle Street/Garden Park garage
- Convert loading zones to short-term parking spaces during non-peak periods to increase the number of available spaces for short term use
- Increase lighting for safety in pedestrian areas
- Increase signage and wayfinding throughout downtown to parking specific areas
- Upgrade the parking management system, such as the on-street meters, and Ontario Street parking garage
- Continue and increase the usage of the Honk Mobil application or a comparable system
- Sell additional off-street long-term permits at underutilized parking lots
- Review the parking price structure biannually with stakeholders and City staff to reflect parking related operation and maintenance to meet the City’s reserved fund goals
- Maintaining the existing overnight parking prohibitions
The following recommendations, however, are NOT advantageous to downtown businesses, and the GNCC cannot endorse them:
- Extend weekday short-term parking hours to 9:00p.m.
- Implement charges for short-term weekend parking (Saturday and Sunday)
- Implement a 2-hour maximum on-street time limit
- Designate a special events zone and charge $2.50 an hour on-street and a flat $5.00 rate off-street within a designated special event zone; maintain the regular $1.50 hourly rate outside the special event zone
There is a need for long-term parking. The ideal outcome would be to maintain short-term on-street parking within Zone Two and to develop an empty lot in close proximately to accommodate long-term weekday parking and special event parking. This would provide businesses with ample employee parking during business hours and access to special event parking on weekday evenings and weekends. Further, the development of a parking garage would assist in the congestion of the downtown core during special events.
Insufficient parking should not be or become a deterrent to living and working in downtown St. Catharines or to enjoying its attractions. The GNCC feels that these recommendations reflect the needs of its members, the downtown businesses and organizations in downtown St. Catharines, and support the City’s goal of developing a vibrant and prosperous downtown community.