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New Westminster's Sapperton business owners say East Columbia parking a problem

While there's been much ado about parking in New Westminster's downtown, Sapperton business owners say parking on East Columbia Street has become challenging enough to deter some customers.

While there's been much ado about parking in New Westminster's downtown, Sapperton business owners say parking on East Columbia Street has become challenging enough to deter some customers.

The city replaced traditional parking meters along East Columbia with digital pay stations after road and sidewalk construction in 2011.

In order to pay for parking, a user must punch in their licence plate number and pay with either coins or a credit card at one of seven pay stations currently in the neighbourhood.

But the added inconvenience compared to old-style meters is enough to keep some customers away, according to Rose Ternes, owner of Cadeaux Gifts & Home Embellishments in Sapperton.

Customers don't always have their licence plate numbers memorized, and more walking to reach a pay station is a deterrent, especially during bad weather or for people with mobility issues.

So Ternes gathered "hundreds" of names on a petition to take to city council, asking for another solution for parking in the nieghbourhood.

"The city would not respond to me until literally, I had some kind proof because my complaint wasn't enough," she said. "I wouldn't complain if my customers didn't complain."

After three tough years of a slow economy, local business owners don't want to watch potential costumers drive away in frustration over parking, Ternes said.

Local businesses won a small victory when the city quickly increased the amount of signage and moved the pay station farther up the block to where it is more accessible in response to Ternes' petition, but the bigger picture of parking in Sapperton remains a problem.

Ternes said she and other Sapperton merchants are worried the neighbourhood will keep changing, bringing in new development and business - something local businesses want - without adequate parking being added with new development.

Ternes' next goal is to persuade the city to pave, line and possibly add meters to a gravel lot in the lane between Cedar Street and Braid Street.

But those with similar concerns about pay station parking should get their practice in on East Columbia now, says Dave Cole, the city's assistant manager of operations.

"The intent is to go city-wide," he said.

Cole said the city considered the pay stations' downsides in a study

"The feedback on the pay stations was, in fact, the exact opposite," he said. "All the feedback we got was positive."

Other advantages the city considered before moving ahead with pay stations included the ability for users to get a receipt, less space taken up compared old style parking meters, easier maintenance and repair, and easier tracking of data by the city.

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