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On Guelph's Wilson St Parking Garage

Last night, city council agreed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to study and plan an approximately 500-spot 5-story parking garage on Wilson St. next to the soon-to-be-opened new City Hall. While no official cost is yet available, council seemed to believe the lot would cost approximately $16 million, for what would likely be a net gain of around 400 parking spaces. That's $40,000 per net new parking space, though city staff described it as around $30,000 per parking space as they are counting the existing ones that will become the ground floor of the garage in this cost, even though they are not a net improvement.

My question is, as always, simple. Could $16,000,000 get 400 drivers downtown some other way, or otherwise be better spent?

To put it in context, $40,000 per parking spot comes out to around 13 years of all the municipal taxes -- that's including school taxes -- from a typical residential house in Guelph. Many of those using the spots are likely not even Guelph taxpayers as they live elsewhere and drive into the city. It is also equivalent to 689 months of bus passes, per new parking spot, which is about 57 years' worth of adult bus passes at current rates, for one person.

If parking permits cost $50/month for this garage -- less than a bus pass -- the only number I have yet seen for the projected cost of the proposed parking permit, the amortisation of the cost of building the lot, without counting any ongoing maintenance or operating costs, would be 66 years and 8 months, assuming permanent 100% occupancy, which probably exceeds the life expectancy of the lot.

We are willing to fund Guelph Transit to the tune of 55%, yet we are, effectively, willing to fund parking to, or close to, 100%. It's got me scratching my head.

For $16 million, we could probably buy out Silvercreek Guelph Developments Limited's former Lafarge property. When they realise that Guelph will not likely cooperate on the value-raising rezoning application, I would not be surprised if they eventually become willing to sell for a return of all their incurred costs. We could turn that into a major transit hub for rail, as I have discussed many times before, and offer a frequent shuttle bus between it and downtown Guelph's parking-free transit hub.

In February, I proposed running an east-west bus through Guelph originating at Guelph's small airport on York Rd next to the legion, running through the transit hub(s), and continuing on to Waterloo Regional Airport, where it could connect to Grand River Transit. For the cost of this one parking garage for a few more downtown parking spots, surely we could implement something practical and long-term like this?

The thing about parking lots is they encourage more cars, which is in direct contravention of Guelph's official plan which explicitly demands a reduction in cars and an increase in public transit funding and usage. Guelph is currently planning to build two large parking garages in the downtown core. There is already one there, bringing the total to three -- for now. Each one of those costs as much as a revolutionary change in our transit infrastructure would, for much smaller benefit to many fewer people.

So before we build yet another parking garage downtown and divert tens of millions of dollars to let a few more commuters avoid public transit, why don't we ask ourselves what we can do with this money that would have at least some real long term benefits?

Posted at 10:24 on March 26, 2008

This entry has been archived. Comments can no longer be posted.

Guelph's Imico property -- our other major transit opportunity | guelph transit | How I came to believe in better public transit


Padraic (postgeographic.wordpress.com) writes at Wed Mar 26 10:47:33 EDT 2008...

You are, of course, completely right. This is just another fat subsidy for automobile owners, and sadly, it seems to be an uncontroversial one. It's not even bad enough how we all "subsidize" them by accepting the environmental effects of car transport, but we have to give up cold hard cash as well.

Subsidizing transit saves money in the long run due to its environmental benefits, and gives citizens the mobility that is required for a high quality of life.

Subsidizing cars may give the latter, but not in the cheapest way possible, and at huge environmental cost. I honestly can't think of a single reason that government should be in the business of providing parking.


Joseph writes at Wed Mar 26 13:49:33 EDT 2008...

You said that this is in contravention of Guelph's official plan. Was the vote unanimous? Are the councillors aware that they have voted to undertake a study that flies in the face of their own priorities?


JimBobby (jimbobbysez.blogspot.com) writes at Wed Mar 26 13:49:34 EDT 2008...

"Could $16,000,000 get 400 drivers downtown some other way, or otherwise be better spent?"

And that $16 mil doesn't even get them downtown. It only gives them a place to park once they've gotten themselves there. At $30,000 per space, they could bribe would-be drivers into leaving their cars home.

JB


David Graham (cdlu.net) writes at Wed Mar 26 14:08:55 EDT 2008...

Padraic, indeed. There's nothing we subsidise anywhere close to the automobile, and it *still* costs automobile owners thousands of dollars a year. Imagine what it would cost if we were each responsible for the actual, real, total costs of our own vehicles? Ontario's economy would tank, and I think that's the rub for politicians. Manufacturing jobs are more important than long term consequences of the product manufactured, though I believe our huge manufacturing capacity could be used to construct mass transit infrastructure and vehicles, and the remaining de-jobbed factory workers would be more than a little needed to operate all of those.

Joseph, yes, I believe it was unanimous, even from councillors cynical of the idea who understand the need for diverting funding to more long term projects. The fear, is that failing to pander to downtown business interests will result in the election of a council more willing to bend over, and then we end up even further behind.

I believe they were aware that at the very least their actions are in contravention of the official plan amendments they are currently considering.

Refer to items 79 to 106 of the Official Plan amendments being processed right now on the city's website at guelph.ca, found on pages 94 through 99 of this PDF for specific language they are proposing putting in the official plan.

JimBobby,

That's another good point. I was also thinking that $40,000 per parking spot would pay for Guelph drivers to have publically funded taxis into the city for 1,333 days - over 5 years based on a 5 day work week - if they live on the outskirts of town and cost the approximately $15 that such a trip would cost each way.


shoes writes at Wed Mar 26 20:18:27 EDT 2008...

CDLU, I am sure you have considered this but....here goes..

The reason they (Karen and her crew) want this Wilson ST. garage is so that they can have it both ways...satisfy the insatiable parking appetite of the downtown merchants and "maintain" parking spots for the train station.

So (even though its the best idea) forget the Lafarge proposal. Karen want the transit hub down town and she usually gets what she wants.

BTW. Your idea for the Imico site was well thought out and a rationale solution for a problematic site. BUT given the above there's not a prayer in hell

What's $16 mil? (that didn't appear on coucil's priorities 6 weeks ago)

While I am on the topic of the Imico site....why not cover it with solar panels and generate some green electrons? Of course we will neither influence nor benefit from that once Guelph Hydro is sold....which is were the $16 mil will come from....unless it goes to Baker Street or the library.

Damn..sorry to be so negative...you have some great ideas.


David Graham (cdlu.net) writes at Thu Mar 27 16:44:53 EDT 2008...

shoes,

Hmm. That's a lot of food for thought.

Even if council does want to have parking downtown at the expense of Lafarge/Imico park-and-rides, the day the GO trains show up is the day there isn't a parking spot to be found anywhere in the downtown area on a permanent and on-going basis, no matter how many parking lots and spots they build. I personally believe our current batch of councilors are quite smart and realise that at some point, no matter how many parking garages are built, the arrival of GO service in Guelph will either result in no parking to be found in the downtown, or a park-and-ride in an unfavourable location no-one was expecting.

At least, I certainly don't intend to let anyone forget it.

Magda at the Merc's city hall blog today asks quite reasonably: where did this Wilson St lot come from? No-one had even heard of it just a month ago and now we are spending $400,000 just to plan it.


Stephen Host (gokw.org) writes at Thu Mar 27 23:14:50 EDT 2008...

Could the parking garage and Rail (GO Transit/VIA Rail) and Bus transit initiatives be connected?

F.Y.I IMO a Downtown Station and Lafarge (or equivelent) are badly needed. You must have both. The real question is, will the City and the Go Transit board agree? Keep in mind the GO board and city must meet eye to eye... and GO is not happy with stations lacking of parking..

As for solar panels -- you can easily install solar panels on top of buildings just the same as you could at ground level could you not? Generate income from the building/tenants, AND offset consumed power with solar panels. Hence you could develop Imico AND have a solar array..

However, I think some would simply prefer some trees/greenspace..

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