Victoria councillors took a step back from partial automation of city parkades Thursday, opting to consider it as part of a planned review of parking services.
While there was general support for partial automation of parkades, council stopped short of adopting the idea in principle and decided to include it in the review.
Several councillors said that, as the parking review was to be conducted anyway in the coming months, it didn’t make sense to consider automation in isolation of other parking issues.
“We all know that parking is a sensitive issue for everyone and everyone has such a strong opinion. I think we have to come forward with a really strong position that shows: ‘Here are the benefits. Here are the strengths. Here’s the weaknesses. This is the package that we’ve put together,’ ” said Coun. Pam Madoff.
Madoff said a review would address issues such as security, peak hours and the relationship between street parking and parkade parking.
“Parking is critical to the City of Victoria and how it is perceived, and I think it needs to be looked at in a holistic fashion. It can’t be piecemealed off,” said Coun. Shellie Gudgeon. “It needs to be fair and equitable to the public and make sense to them, which, currently, I don’t think it does.”
A city budget-reduction strategy estimates $300,000 a year could be saved through automation of city parkades during slow periods — a move being fought by CUPE, the union representing parkade workers. About 2,825 people have signed petitions against the plan.
The earliest automation could be implemented is 2014. It is just one of the initiatives suggested by senior staff — including advertising in parkades, reducing programming in Centennial Square, and limiting police and library budget increases to 2.0 per cent — to try to meet a council directive to keep property tax increases at 3.25 per cent a year in each of 2014 and 2015.
Hitting that target won’t be easy, said director of finance Brenda Warner. Even if all six cost-reduction measures were implemented, the city would still need to find at least another $434,000 in cost savings.
Of the 3.25 per cent annual increase, council has directed 1.25 per cent be used on capital infrastructure costs, leaving 2.0 per cent for operations. “And the city’s costs are increasing more than two per cent a year,” Warner said.
City officials say the automation would constitute a reduction of 30 to 40 per cent of staff hours. It would mean no layoffs of the seven full-time parking attendants and is unlikely to mean layoffs among the seven part-time employees. However, it would significantly reduce hours for the 27 auxiliary employees.
“We would be looking individually at each parkade, seeing when we would want to have it staffed and when we could potentially automate,” said Dwayne Kalynchuk, city director of engineering and public works.
“Also we’d be looking at special events. If we’re located near a theatre … certainly we would want to make sure it’s staffed during peak period times.”
The capital cost of automation is estimated at $500,000, he said.
Coun. Lisa Helps said it makes sense to automate in the slow periods.
Coun. Ben Isitt spoke against automation. “The public has spoken very clearly about this particular item.”
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