That Difficult Balance: Parking Impacts of Creating a Walkable, Cycle-able Ganges
Nine came to this ASK Salt Spring gathering to discuss parking in Ganges. After our Territorial Acknowledgement, a participant expressed deep concern that the Ganges Active Transportation Network Plan (https://www.crd.bc.ca/docs/default-source/crd-document-library/plans-reports/planning-development/salt-spring-island-active-transportation-network-plan.pdf), had been released without specifically reaching out to community members with mobility challenges to get their input. (This plan was presented to the Local Community Commission - LCC - at its July meeting and will be discussed at its next meeting, Tuesday, August 22, 9:00 in the SIMS Boardroom.) She expressed concern about the plan, which could remove as many as 31 on-street Ganges parking spaces without this consultation. Living with mobility issues, she was concerned that this plan may be implemented, making her current difficulties even more challenging.
As the plan calls for no reduction in the number of accessible (handicapped) parking spaces, some other participants asked how this would impact our mobility-challenged community. Two participants who have Handicap Permits explained that they prefer to leave those spaces for others, often parking in regular spaces close to their destination. With some on-street parking spaces removed, these participants were concerned that they would always need to park in handicap-designated spaces, leaving fewer for others with mobility issues.
The participant expressing concerns wondered why more community members were not aware of this plan and its impact on Ganges parking. We learned that community outreach for this plan included input from approximately 800 people through two surveys, a day at the Saturday Market, an invitation-only workshop of leading local organizations, and an ASK Salt Spring gathering. Despite these efforts at outreach, we all agreed that, too often, community members are unaware of relevant issues.
Another participant acknowledged the concerns expressed but also noted that it is the LCC’s responsibility to make our village more accessible for all users. Did you realize that the south side of McPhillips, for example, currently has no pedestrian access along the roadway, with access largely dependent on a partial - and privately-owned - sidewalk made inaccessible for many due to steps.
This participant reminded us all that, with a limited amount of pavement in the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) right-of-way, adding space for safe pedestrian and wheeled passage necessitates compromises. One of these compromises is less controversial: Did you know that most of our Ganges vehicular lanes are significantly-wider than is required by MoTI? If our community moves forward with this plan, some active transportation space will be gained by narrowing vehicle lanes.
But. . . .if we want safe passage for all, on-street parking will also be impacted. Did you know that angle parking - while accommodating a lot of cars - also takes up a wide swath of precious pavement? While spaces could be lost through removing some angle parking, parallel parking makes room for pedestrians and cyclists. And, yes. . . if this plan is implemented, we will all need to learn to parallel park again :).
We were reminded us that, while approximately 31 spaces along our village streets could be removed, the plan recommends CRD take on management of the upper ArtSpring parking lot to add 35 spaces. (ArtSpring recognizes the need to assist with Ganges’ parking inventory and is in discussion with the CRD and other groups to assist finding short- and long-term solutions.) It also recommends seeking access to an existing privately-owned parking lot located near the Co-op gas station. If these recommendations were implemented, more than 55 additional parking spaces would be added in lots adjacent to our village core to compensate for the loss of the estimated 31 on-street spaces.
Will it be popular with able-bodied drivers to park a distance from their destination and walk? Maybe not. It will take a shift in the current Salt Spring mindset that expects a parking space directly in front of the destination. Will a walkable/cycle-able village be enough reward for the annoyance of a several minute walk to one’s destination?
A participant reminded us how dangerous it is for many to walk and cycle in Ganges. In the opinion of this participant, doing nothing is unacceptable. Instead, we need to balance the needs of all and come to consensus about the best way to provide safe passage for all.
It was asked what acceptance of the Ganges Active Transportation Network Plan by the LCC actually means? We learned that it is a multi-stage process, beginning with the acceptance of the plan in principle, followed by approval of each specific project to implement identified portions of this plan. It was asked: Will those with mobility issues be asked before it is implemented? The answer was yes, but. . . that community consultation could endeavour to balance the needs of all by reaching out to those with challenges as well as cyclists, pedestrians, and adjacent businesses, to name a few.
Timing? If community feedback is positive, it is hoped that this consultation as well as the design work needed to implement identified portions of the plan will be completed in time to apply for funding in the October 2024 Active Transportation grant cycle.
Shifting from the Ganges Active Transportation Network Plan, the rest of our conversation was about the lack of parking enforcement along our village streets. Participants energetically lamented the lack of personal responsibility by some drivers. Why can’t folks just follow the rules? When asked whether any of us had never parked illegally, nearly all admitted that they had, in fact, occasionally parked illegally.
It was asked a number of times: Why can’t someone just ticket the offenders? Actually, no one is authorized to monitor and enforce parking on our roads! (The majority of our Ganges lots are privately-owned, and owners have the responsibility for these lots as well as the right to enforce their rules.) A long-standing issue, it was the consensus of this group that, without on-street parking enforcement, the effort to create a walkable/cycling Ganges will be doomed: If there is not a system to punish offenders, folks might just park in the newly-created bike and multi-use pathways.
MoTI does not enforce parking offenses along its right-of-way, and - currently - CRD does not have the power to enforce it either. While the RCMP energetically seeks to remove abandoned vehicles, its focus is not upon parking violations by owners of registered vehicles.
While the CRD does not currently have the power to enforce parking violations, the LCC could establish a Parking Service. Establishing such a service would require both voter approval and an additional tax. Why, one might ask? How hard is it to give a ticket? Actually, it is a bit complicated as funding has to be allocated for staff, public interface, accounting, record-keeping, legal fees for offenders fighting the citation, towing, and a storage lot for towed cars. While some of this cost could be reduced by fines and possibly even pay-parking, establishing a parking service involves more than simply empowering someone to write tickets.
We asked if folks commonly park illegally in handicapped parking spots. It was estimated that disregard for these spaces does happen but that it was far less frequent than in other village parking spots. How can we at least make sure that these offenders are ticketed?
As it was after 1:00, and time to go, participants left with appreciation of the concerns of those with mobility challenges as well as the complexity of parking in Ganges. The left with the understanding that:
There will be a process identifying the portions of the Ganges Active Transportation Network Plan to implement first.
Specifics will be discussed with those impacted, including businesses along the route, those with mobility challenges, cyclists, and pedestrians.
It is highly-likely that there will also be an LCC discussion about parking in Ganges.
Please join us this Friday, August 25, 11-1, in the SIMS - former Middle School - Courtyard to welcome Owen Page, our MoTI Area Manager and Andrew Gaetz, Emcon (our roads maintenance contractor) Operations Manager.
What would you like to ask them?
Concerning maintenance, you hear a lot of concerns about our roads, What is the most frequent concern you hear about our road maintenance? What is your major concern?
What are you doing to prepare our roads for our winter storms?
What can we do to help you keep us safer during our storms?
What can you tell us about the Ganges Hill repaving project? What about Blackburn Bridge?
If you could see 10 years into Salt Spring’s future, what changes (good and bad) to you see with our roads?
Please join us to welcome Owen and Andrew next Friday!
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