Paid parking system considered a success, will see small changes

Town Council met for its regular meeting on Oct. 10

Council heard an overview of the paid parking system that was in place over the height of the summer during the Oct. 10 council meeting.

Overall Council was pleased with the outcome of the new addition, and command town employees and citizens with handling what Mayor Sean McIntyre called a paradigm shift.

The new system was set to roll out prior to the busy tourist season, which sees it’s height during July and August. Unfortunately the system wasn’t completely operational until July 4.

Ron Lebsack, community services director with the Town of Sylvan Lake, says this was due to switching from wired to solar powered terminals.

“We found out it would have cost much more to have a few terminals hard wired in. So, we ended up ordering five more solar panels to run the terminals,” Lebsack said.

Despite the delay, most of the concerns and complaints from Sylvan Lake citizens were issued in May and June when the program was announced and initiated. These concerns were about how the system will affect their parking habits.

Otherwise, complaints from visitors about the pay parking system were more about line-ups at terminals, over paying at the terminals or paying twice, inadequate signage and no way to pay parking tickets online.

“When it comes to people paying more or twice, it is a simple reason of them not knowing they don’t need a ticket for their car,” said Lebsack.

Many of those who paid twice did so because they didn’t get a ticket to place in their car proving purchase.

This is not needed as the system does not use these tickets. Instead it asks if the one paying would like a receipt, which is not the same thing.

“If you don’t click that you would want a receipt nothing will print. This seemed to cause the problem and confusion,” said Lebsack.

Lebsack believed putting up more and clearer signage would also help, as many said there wasn’t enough or what was there wasn’t clear enough.

Lebsack also suggested the development and implementation of a payment app for smartphones to cut down on line-ups at the pay stations. This was also suggested because roughly two-thirds of users made payments using a credit card.

However, this was largely cut down by Council.

“Those using the pay stations are visitors who are here a couple times a year. I wouldn’t want to download an app to pay for something once or twice,” said Coun. Megan Chernoff-Hanson.

Instead, Council believes adding more pay stations in congested areas would make more sense, both financially and for the visitors.

One complaint about the pay parking comes from business owners who don’t live in Sylvan Lake. As they own property in town, they would like to see parking permits given to the owners for free.

It was largely agreed that as long as a business owner could prove they pay Sylvan Lake taxes, the same courtesy should be extended to them.

However, Coun. Dale Plante said it depends on the who pays the taxes.

“One thing we will have to look at in this instance is who pays the taxes. If the owner leases out the building then the renter is actually paying the taxes on the building,” Plante said.

Council was pleasantly surprised to hear the payback time for the system would be drastically cut.

This project was budgeted at $535,000 with and estimated profit of $62,451 each year. This means the payback for the project would take 8.6 years.

However, the actual cost of the system was $203,633 with a profit of $72,802. The smaller price tag means Council will be able to pay back the loan in less than three years.

“The payback time was something we were concerned with. But to see the payback time cut down by five years is just phenomenal,” said Coun. Jas Payne.

There were a total of 1,089 citations given during for parking violations through the pay parking system. This does not include citations given for parking illegally or speeding.

A total of 813 citations were charges, a total of 75 per cent of citations given.

There was a total of 41,867 parking tickets sold over the summer.

Council was very happy to see an overview of the system, but wants to see a full review of the system. Mayor McIntyre would also like to hear feedback from the community about the system.

“Deeper discussion on this topic is going to be needed,” said McIntyre. “I don’t foresee any dramatic changes at all, but there are some things we’ll need to address after this first year of the program.”

The pay parking program is in place throughout the downtown for May 15 to Sept. 15.

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