Letter: Kelowna’s parking manager misses the point

Duncan…suggests (the disabled) review the city's policy online. [The bylaw] is nothing we do not already know.

To the editor:

Re: Kelowna Downtown Lacks Dedicated Parking for Disabled, July 8 Capital News.

Duncan [Kelowna’s parking services manager Dave Duncan] skirts the point by saying: “If someone with a pass parks in a regular metered spot on a city street, he or she must pay the metered rate…However, they are allowed to park longer than the stated time limit, as long as they top up the meter to pay for the extra time.”

This is the whole issue in a nutshell. At $1.25 per hour, $2.50 per two hours and $3.75 for the third hour, etc, this makes paying to park in the downtown core—where all the services, support and peers are—prohibitive to many with placards including those on disability and those, including seniors, who live well below the poverty line.

If someone is coming to the Gospel Mission to eat on an almost daily basis, this figure goes up by end of month where are they getting the $2.50 at minimum, on a daily basis to plug the metered spot. What if they eat two meals a day at the Mission? Alternatively, what of those who come downtown to visit with their peers and share a cheap coffee? The metered spot takes away the price of the coffee.

Even at a low time estimate of two hours, paid parking per day over five days a week adds up to $50 per month. Absolutely no one has a spare 50 bucks when they live on $1,000 or less a month.

And isolation comes into play when individuals cannot get out to see their friends. Isolation is not good for anyone.

Perhaps the city should completely revamp the disability parking bylaws and system. What about several big spaces through the core that are for vehicles equipped with ramps for wheelchairs as they often need longer spots? The spots could have bright yellow signs and matching placards. All the rest of the parking spaces would be not placarded but for use by regular drivers who would pay the metered price and those with regular blue disability placards who would not pay the meter. This allows all with placards the ability to get as near to where they are going as possible.

I myself, would be willing to pay a higher fee upon renewing my placard. A higher one-time user fee, plus renewals, might allow the city to recoup any losses while at the same time save the marginalized about $50 per month.

It is only an idea but a progressive idea—things change, bylaws can be rewritten.

Duncan, at the end of the piece suggests going to review the city’s policy online. [The bylaw] is nothing we do not already know.

Just prior to that, Duncan concedes problems with the program and points out that “the program is slated to be reviewed…next year” and suggests they “are trying to do some education.” The “trying to do some education” translates to me as nothing will change and they will find better ways of informing disabled placard holders that they will rarely get a parking space near where they are going and to get one will cost you unless you are one of the lucky few who managed to find one of the few dedicated spaces.

Ultimately it is a quality of life issue for those who will start having to pay to park and run back to plug the meter. For business owners, new progressive accessibility parking bylaws could bring more disabled drivers downtown as they probably now prefer to go to malls and private shopping centres where businesses are clued in to the need for disability parking.

It is true that not all placard holders live under the poverty line but even if I could afford the cost of parking I might avoid downtown because of the sparsity of designated disabled spots. There are some good restaurants and boutiques who might well be interested in the well-heeled baby boomer money—if only the potential customer could find an empty designated spot near where they wanted to go.

And finally, Duncan did not mention when the matter of accessibility parking passes will be reviewed or if the public can submit ideas or be at the review process. In fact he basically blew off the point of the questions and glossed them over with existing bylaws online.

Kimberlee, Kelowna