BY AUSTIN WELLS
Last week, reports were released that Kitchener officials plan to build a sixth parking garage in the city, despite the other five being underused. One of the newest lots reported 36 per cent monthly occupancy, while the market garage reported a 52 per cent occupancy. The industry average for occupancy is 86 per cent.
These low numbers should be reason enough to drop the project, yet the city persists with plans to build a new parking garage that will cost millions of dollars.
City officials have already gone over budget on the ION rail transit project, which has cost over $860 million so far. The construction and scope of the project is extremely significant. Once construction is complete, if all goes according to plan, the ION Rail and bus systems will allow easy transit between Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo. Additionally, the regular Grand River Transit bus systems are being upgraded, with a loadable tap card for payments being considered.
With all these transit upgrades, what’s the point of adding more parking garages? Generally, the point of upgrading and installing a transit system is to cater to people without cars, or eliminate their use. Considering all the work that Kitchener City Council is doing for the future (beyond ION, council is working to upgrade the Kitchener-Toronto GO Train rail and schedule so that it can run daily) toward making Kitchener-Waterloo more accessible via public transit, the insistence on these underused parking garages just seems unnecessary.
If council has the best interests of Kitchener citizens in mind, there are far better uses for the money, such as offering compensation to business owners who lost money during LRT construction.
The parking garages that exist in K-W are underused, so constructing a sixth one just doesn’t make sense. Instead, council should continue to focus on the upgrading of the transit system. When complete, if it leads to a population boom and residents start to demand more parking, only then should it be considered.