Land near the Langford transit exchange on Station Avenue is being used as an unofficial park and ride. That much is clear from the mass of cars parked in the gravel area.
City resident and nearby business owner Ed Pitcher thinks it should be turned into one, however, and he’d like someone to step up and make it happen.
Pitcher claims that during rainy periods – or the infrequent snowfalls – the area essentially becomes a mud bog. He’s looking for some initiative to be taken on creating an official park and ride, since people are clearly using it for that purpose.
“It’s an eyesore,” he says. “Langford is becoming the nicest community in the south end of the Island, and it’s an eyesore right in the middle of it. It sure doesn’t enhance the businesses in the area. In fact, I’d say it downgrades them.”
He also thinks there should have been better planning when the location of the transit hub was relocated to Station Avenue from the Westshore Town Centre.
“Who’s the goofball that planned this thing in the first place?” Pitcher asks rhetorically. “Why wasn’t there some thought put into putting a Park and Ride in when it was moved there?”
Meribeth Burton of B.C. Transit says it’s up to whomever owns the land to build such facilities, not Transit.
The City of Langford could lease or purchase the land from the Island Corridor Foundation to create a more permanent and dedicated parking area, says Mayor Stew Young, but he adds that wouldn’t be a good use of taxpayer money. They would likely have to spend tax dollars to build a facility and would be forced to recoup the cost through parking charges, something he has no interest in doing, he says.
“Right now, people get to park there for free, so they’re using it. I would, too,” he says, laughing. “We could probably get a long-term lease and pave it. But that would cost money, so we’d have to charge people for the use of it, and the incentive to park out here and take the bus would be gone.”
The city tries to add parking “in bits and pieces when we can afford it,” Young says, noting that the cost of those parking spaces comes out of commercial property tax collected by the city, a strategy that requires no recouping the cost from users.
“We’re certainly trying to get more parking for people, but our priority is parking for people who are here,” he says, not the people who are leaving their cars here and going elsewhere.
Next on the parking list is a major parkade somewhere in downtown Langford, he adds, “so that people can park and walk everywhere downtown and have a better experience in our area. Right now, there’s just not enough parking, but we need to do it when we can afford it.”
The long and short of it, Young says, is that people should make use of the free parking while they can. He doesn’t foresee a change in ownership of that property any time soon, “if ever,” but it’s entirely possible that the property owners will decide to pave it and charge user fees.
“I think people should be careful what they wish for.”
At the very least, Pitcher would like to see a poll of some kind conducted among the people who are using the area as a park and ride already to see if they’d be willing to pay for a better lot.
“I know I’d be willing to pay $20 a month or whatever, if I knew my car was going to be where I left it and there would be a spot there for me every day, or five days a week or whatever. Some people I’ve talked to say the same thing.”
Whatever happens, Pitcher says it needs to be addressed, “very seriously and very soon.”