British Columbia

Prince George parking rules aim to ease downtown congestion

In Prince George, it used to be a problem to get shoppers to come downtown. But in recent years, new businesses have opened, bringing more shoppers and cars. Now, some businesses say the increased traffic has made it difficult for shoppers to find parking.

Businesses say 'all-day parkers' are taking space from potential customers

Prince George has unrolled new parking fees downtown in an attempt to free up spaces for shoppers. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

In Prince George, it used to be a problem to get shoppers to come downtown. But in recent years, new businesses have opened, bringing more shoppers and cars.

Now, some businesses say the increased traffic has made it difficult for shoppers to find parking.

And they welcome the more stringent parking rules aimed at easing that congestion.

"When we first moved here there was eight empty (retail) spots," explained Kate Roxburgh, owner of the Topaz Bead Gallery on the 1200 block of 4th Avenue.

"Now, for the first time since we've been here, all of the stores are full of retailers."

Several new businesses have moved onto the block in the past year, including a men's wear store, a shoe store, and a soon-to-be-opened tap house.

Roxburgh said the extra businesses are welcome, but they brought more shoppers, which in turn increased the number of cars that use street parking.

She said she's losing business because shoppers can't find parking.

For the first time in a decade, every storefront on the 1200 block of 4th Ave in downtown Prince George is being used, leading to problems with parking. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

"People tell me that they can't find parking, and so they just keep going," she said. "That is disheartening. When I'm here, I'm available, I'm open, I have what they need, but they're moving on."

Rod Holmes of the Prince George Downtown Business Improvement Association said many retailers voice the same complaint cited by Roxburgh.

Holmes blamed people who work downtown and park on the street, making it difficult for shoppers to find spaces.

People tell me that they can't find parking, and so they just keep going."- Kate Roxburgh

"People that are working downtown are abusing the system to a certain degree by parking in the on-street parking areas instead of the off-street," he said.

The city has introduced new city rules and enforcement technology aimed at ticketing "all-day parkers" who take up parking spots that could be used by potential customers. Both the DBIA and the Chamber of Commerce have welcomed those changes.

New technology to scan licence plates

Starting today, downtown Prince George becomes a "three hour zone" — meaning on-street parking is free for three hours, but anyone staying longer will be ticketed. To avoid fines, drivers must move to a paid parking lot, which typically costs $4 per day or 75 cents an hour.

Previously, street parking was free.

The new rules are accompanied by new technology: a system that lets bylaw officers quickly scan licence plates in order to more effectively ticket those who break the rules.

Using a camera mounted on a city vehicle, city staff will be able to make quick rounds of downtown. Anyone found to be parked for more than three consecutive hours will receive a ticket.

Not everyone is welcoming the change. On social media, some have argued that the rules will discourage people from going downtown, countering other initiatives aimed at revitalizing the city core.

Councillor Jillian Merrick said she disagrees with the sentiment that Prince George's downtown is struggling.

"So far this year we've got $115 million dollars worth of building permits in the city, the majority of which is located downtown. The Conference Board of Canada has pegged us as one of the nine fastest growing small cities in Canada," she said. 

The argument... that we have to give everything away in order to make people come downtown just doesn't fly with me.- Jillian Merrick

"So the argument that we're not developing, that there's no money at play, that we have to give everything away in order to make people come downtown just doesn't fly with me."

"There's a certain point where downtown development actually means spending your money and not just taking everything for free."

Merrick also pointed out that the three-hour rules only apply from 7 a.m until 5 p.m. on weekdays. Parking will remain free on evenings and weekends. 

As for Roxburgh, she's happy to pay four dollars a day to park her own vehicle as long as it means the spots in front of her store will be open to customers.

"I think it's a benefit," she said. "A benefit for downtown."


To learn more about the new downtown parking rules, click on the audio titled: 'Prince George's bylaw manager explains new downtown parking rules'. 

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