On Parking and Parks

Interesting story from Bill Metcalfe in the Nelson Daily on the addition of up to 35 parking spaces downtown.

Most downtown businesses probably welcome more parking, and if you go downtown to shop, eat, or do business, there is a good chance you drive. And if you are a visitor to Nelson, you almost assuredly came in a car. So it’s hard to argue that creating more parking downtown is a terrible idea in the near future. 

So for me, if we’ve figured out a way to carve 35 more parking spaces out of existing street space, good. And since it can be accomplished without building another parking lot, even better. BUT here’s something to consider.

What if we took some of those parking spots and created more public space? Many cities are building “parklets” in parking spaces, which are basically like the amenity areas we have on Baker Street now. Or what if we used even just one of those spaces to create parking for a ten bikes? Or if we even changed the way we designed traffic flow to reflect how drivers actually use streets so that we can make more space for pedestrians? 


I would say if we could do this, we would be striking a better balance between driver and pedestrian needs.


4 thoughts on “On Parking and Parks

  1. Hey John,

    Good to see you’re in the running for council. Site looks great.

    My thoughts on this:

    I recognize these 35 new spots as mostly displacing current parking that would be lost through the creation of Hall Street. The Hall Street design is already creating a lot more space for pedestrians and public space is it not? I feel like we’ve already arrived at a reasonable conclusion for both sides of the cars vs pedestrian debate. Though I assume that you’re using this post as a way to state your overall position, yeah?

    I do like your sentiment though. I’m all for striving to make downtown as pedestrian friendly as possible. Hall Street is another great step in that direction. I also agree with Jessen about free parking for owners of electric cars and the Carshare Co-op. (though his comment to “defy anyone to stand at the corner of Ward and Victoria” is nonsense and “anecdata” at best. I feel the opposite.)

    But as you know, the majority in Nelson and the surrounding area really do need a car for most errands. All caveats aside about the methodology and data, but most of Nelson has a low http://www.walkscore.com. And once you get across the bridge or out of town, the walk score drops to single digits. This has nothing to do with parking spots downtown, and everything to do with the fact that Nelson’s downtown has the amenities these people need. The only way we’re gonna increase our overall walk score, is if we bring more amenities to those areas.

    Public transit out of Nelson has gotten better over the years (it didn’t even exist when I was a kid), but it doesn’t solve the last mile problem. People still have to get home from the bus stop. So cars are favoured for rural residents, especially when carrying groceries. Obviously we want more people taking the bus, but currently it’s understandably if they don’t in my opinion.

    And then there’s the hills and the snow. That’s where the pedestrian and biking argument comes up against some serious geographic limitations. A real challenge for many, many people.

    As I say. I like your sentiment. And I think it’s possible to keep pruning around the edges and cutting back on some of these car-first relics. But it’s going to take time. There is only one way in and out of Nelson, and that’s by road, which generally means a car. And the outskirts is where all the population growth is coming from. I have a lot friends out the lake. They’re not taking the bus or biking in to town. They drive, and they park it anywhere they can.

    Obviously it’s a lot more complex than the fate of these particular 35 parking spots. We want people to come downtown and spend money, but we don’t want them to drive. My 70 year old aunt with bad knees who lives in uphill and needs groceries is not walking downtown, I guarantee it.

    For my vote, I’d like to see more attention and incentives for car sharing, car pooling, car driver services (uber-ish) and opening up more amenities across the city. (Burrell Grocery is a good example that contributes to better walkability in uphill)

    But if you start getting rid of parking spots prematurely, just to make downtown more walkable? I think that’s a massive disservice to the majority of people who don’t live in walkable areas of the city, and need to get downtown.

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this and other issues through the campaign. I feel we don’t always agree on implementation, but I think we’re mostly trying to get to the same place. So I enjoy the discourse.


    • Thanks!

      First, I think the only way for the best ideas to wiggle their way to the top of the pile is through vigorous debate, so don’t worry about hurting my feelings. I enjoy these conversations too.

      And you’re right… all I’m really trying to convey here is overall position, and hopefully that’s clear. Well… clear-ish.

      To reiterate: These additional spots are good for Nelson, especially because they are created by mild changes to existing traffic patterns, and even better, because they will create more pedestrian-friendly spaces at corners throughout the downtown. And it could be that these corner “bulb-outs” could provide the opportunity to create more public space, that I spoke about, though not sure if there are safety issues that will need to be addressed first.

      And you are right, the sentiment here is simply to make sure that we’re looking to the future with the creation of policy that embraces alternate forms of transportation and use of public space.

      So I’m not suggesting we get rid of these new parking spaces before we even build them. Just that we consider using a few of these new spaces for other uses such as bike racks or as you’ve suggested, to incentivize car-sharing and other transportation alternatives.


  2. My broader point is that we have looked to the future (all the way to 2040), and many great ideas and plans are already in place; Hall Street Corridor, Official Community Plan, the Sustainable Strategy, Nelson Commons (public area), The Path to 2040 and other plans, address these values. (car pooling, bike paths, pedestrians paths, among many other points)

    Our existing plans are nothing but good intentions unless they are effectively implemented. I want people in office who have the ability to execute on what’s already in place.

    Yes fresh ideas are always needed, but the timing of an idea matters.


  3. Agreed. I’ve spoken with a few people who describe Nelson as looking great on paper, but when it comes to acting on studies and implementation of new policies, we sometimes struggle to get going. Follow-up is crucial.


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