Free parking

Parking meters in downtown Penticton were temporarily put out of commission in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. 

A newly elected city councillor is pushing for the return of free on-street parking in downtown Penticton.

Ryan Graham said he’s filed a notice of motion for this coming Tuesday’s meeting of city council that would see parking meters and ticket spitters go quiet for three months, effective Dec. 7.

“It’s reprieve to the business community that’s just trying to hold on with inflation and people not coming downtown,” said Graham in an interview Thursday.

“Paid parking has always been a contentious issue and I’ve never understood why city council and mayor couldn’t say no.”

Graham, who operates a downtown business, said a temporary switch to free parking would represent a “common-sense approach” to longstanding community concerns and give time for a proper review of the program.

While acknowledging there would be a hit to city revenues, Graham suggested the municipality is in a position to absorb it by virtue of a healthy financial surplus that’s been pumped up by savings on dozens of vacant staff positions.

The previous city council in July 2020 authorized the expansion of the paid on-street parking program to Front Street, Ellis Street and the downtown portion of Main Street, effective Jan. 1, 2021. At the same time, the hourly cost was bumped up from $1.25 to $2.

City staff pitched the expansion as a way to increase municipal revenue to pay for additional programming, such as bylaw officers, and stabilize the municipality’s finances during the pandemic.

The city is budgeting parking revenue of $967,000 this year, more than double the $422,000 in raised in 2019.