But Where Are You Going to Park!
I still get a little giddy when I see another parking lot downtown getting dug up for a new building. Surface parking lots have to be one of the worst uses of land in a city and when I first moved to Victoria, there were a lot of them. Slowly over the years some of these lots were overtaken by new development, but there was such a huge supply that it seemed it couldn't matter. Then in the last five years, surface parking has been eaten up at a frantic pace with hundreds of spots being developed.
At the same time as the surface lots were beginning to disappear, the City of Victoria started to look at the four large parkades that it runs downtown to see if there was a way to increase their usage. Many of the lots had huge sections that were sitting empty most of the time. Price of use was lowered and on Sundays, was completely eliminated. Now with fewer options at ground level and the City parkades at near full capacity most of the time, parking downtown has become a major problem.
You may think that a blog focused on the pedestrian realm should be happy that parking is becoming a problem, but I am not. Like it or not, our city core's health relies on people using it; eating at the restaurants and shopping at the stores. If you want to eliminate parking into a downtown core you need a way to replace those people driving in or give them an alternative and viable way to get there. While growing, the downtown population is nowhere near large enough to compare to the amount of people that come into the downtown from surrounding areas to spend their money. And when it comes to alternative options to get into town, there is transit or riding your bike. Neither of these are attractive enough to replace the vast amount of people that are driving in.
The addition of the bike lanes downtown is a good way to encourage a larger amount of people to ride, but for the next many years it will only be a small portion or the population. Transit is a viable option, but busses are not going to be enough to either convince a larger section of the population or provide the capacity that the city would need.
This of course leaves one other option that may seem counter-intuitive, but if done right, will be a solution that most could live with. By this I mean build more parking. As downtown moves to the north the city needs to build a new parkade and it has the perfect place to do this at Save On Foods Memorial Centre. The area to the north of the curling rink would be the logical choice and also creates an opportunity for the North Park neighbourhood.
There is a need to expand the commercial space along Quadra Street, perhaps a new parkade with ground floor commercial could be built that would enhance the public realm while increasing the capacity of parking on the outskirts of town. Certainly, there is the ability to build both a nice looking building and create more parking. If the city wanted to be even more ambitious, they could work with a developer to include the curling rink space, add some market residential to the project and build a new curling rink underground. Either way the City needs to be working on this now!
The added benefit of this is that North Park would see the definition of a new urban village which gives us the opportunity to come up with a new name for it!
QuaNoPa... NoPaQ... CaleQua... QuaCal...