A 2016 study of parking in downtown Saskatoon and nearby business districts showed a need for more city-controlled off-street parking. This May 2018 photo shows the parking lot north of Midtown Plaza and TCU Place.
Matt Olson / Saskatoon StarPhoenix / Saskatoon
You might think parking spots were becoming an endangered species in Saskatoon.To hear the operators of businesses downtown and along Broadway Avenue, you could conclude that Saskatoon is not only suffering a parking shortage, but it’s on the verge of a crisis.Businesses along Third have expressed concern about protected bike lanes that could eliminate 54 parking stalls, while those on Broadway are worried about dedicated bus lanes that would zap 14 stalls.Conversely, one of the visiting participants at a downtown development event last month exclaimed of downtown Saskatoon: “My goodness, you have more parking here than any place I’ve ever seen.”So who’s right? Parking aplenty or a stall shortage?Three years ago, consultants produced a parking study for the City of Saskatoon.The study looked at the downtown core, part of City Park, the Riversdale business district and the Broadway business district.The consultants found more than 20,000 parking spots, almost enough for every man, woman and child in the neighbouring cities of Warman and Martensville combined.Most of those stalls, more than 13,000, are located downtown with 3,685 in City Park, 2,298 in Riversdale and 1,382 in Broadway.Nearly half of them are stalls restricted for private use, however, limiting the number available for customers. In the downtown, that reduces the number of spaces available to the general public to 7,870.In Broadway, it drops the number of spaces to 837. That might seem plentiful for what is essentially a three-block business district, although the study stretches six blocks and includes side streets.Consider, though, that the Broadway Theatre seats 430, which means a sold-out show could eat up a substantial number of those stalls. The district has also lost off-street parking to the brew pub that will replace the Farnam Block and to a pending project on the former Royal Bank site.During the day, the competition for those spots includes employees as well as customers, just like downtown.Among other concerns about rapid bus routes on Broadway, merchants fear the elimination of any parking, with the stalls located right on Broadway regarded as precious.There may be hundreds of parking spots downtown, but Third Avenue restaurant owners say they already hear complaints from patrons about trouble finding a spot.Are Saskatoon residents too accustomed to expecting a parking spot right in front of their destination? If so, how do you combat that mentality?On a subjective note, restaurant owners downtown and on Broadway who struggle with English — and that’s a significant number — seem mostly uninformed or misinformed about possible changes coming. Translation technology could present a possible solution if city hall thinks that’s a problem.While temporary protected bike lanes on Fourth Avenue proved unpopular and permanent lanes would eliminate 58 stalls, Third Avenue has more restaurants, with customers who want to park as close as possible.The parking study contracted by the city essentially concluded that city hall needs to provide more off-street parking spaces by building parking structures.While someone who does not live in Saskatoon might well conclude there is a wealth of parking, not all of those spots are available. In the study area (downtown, Broadway, Riversdale, City Park), the city controls just 23 per cent of parking or 4,760 spots.Commercial parking spots available to all account for 30 per cent or 6,097 spots. The percentage of city-controlled off-street parking stalls amounts to about four per cent or 834 spots.That’s considered small compared to other municipalities, the study concludes, and advises 1,000 to 1,900 spaces be added in three or four more parkades. That would cost $50 million to $95 million.This recommendation is based on future growth, even though projects like the hotel-condominium-office complex at River Landing include sufficient parking for residents, guests and employees.Since the study, the city opened the parkade under the Remai Modern art gallery with 155 spots available to the public.Saskatoon may seem like a parking paradise from the raw numbers, but residents also know if can be tough to find a spot in the business districts, especially during peak hours.Putting a dent in Saskatoon’s car culture promises to bring some short-term parking firstname.lastname@example.org/thinktankSKRelated