UVic looks at cycling to ease looming parking crisis

The University of Victoria hopes upgrades to cycling infrastructure will quell the forecasted need to build more parkades

The University of Victoria hopes upgrades to cycling infrastructure will quell the forecasted need to build more parkades in coming years.

Last week Saanich council gave the university the OK to remove 28 parking spaces to make way for 234 covered bike stalls and lockers near the University Centre.

“We’re still making good progress relative to having people consider other ways to get to campus other than by vehicle,” said Neil Connelly, director of campus planning and sustainability. “Eight per cent of commuter traffic (to UVic) is cycling, and that’s somewhat stabilizing. We’re looking to add amenities to make it more attractive to bike.”

In recent years, especially in 2011 as the university unsuccessfully sought approval for a seven-level parking garage as part of its new sports complex, parking woes at UVic became a heated topic of discussion in Saanich.

UVic will need 800 new parking stalls in the next five years, according to an internal transportation study from 2008.

With little land left for new buildings or parking lots, UVic has successfully lobbied Saanich council to relax parking requirements, and since 2003, the university has lost 1,400 parking stalls, either to variances or building atop existing lots.

In April 2006, the university touted its transportation demand management plan (TDM) to the council of the day while asking for a 254-stall parking variance.

Last week Coun. Vic Derman defended council’s continued support for more variances, despite a forecasted need for more parking: “Their transportation demand management program has really cut down the amount of traffic coming to campus – that’s good for me, because whatever traffic goes to UVic, most comes on Saanich roads.”

While supply and demand for parking on campus fluctuates, Connelly says the existing parking lots are never completely full.

“There’s always space on campus to park – in some cases it may be a little further than people’s destinations lie. But certainly outlying lots and other lots are meeting that demand,” he said. “It’s something we monitor quite closely. We want to ensure there isn’t a spillover into the neighbourhoods.”

Connelly says the university is now doing what it can to minimize the need for more parkades.   UVic faced area resident outrage against a proposed 503-stall structure at the now under-construction Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities. That was scrapped for a much smaller 234-space parkade.

“It’s recognized that our campus is not particularly large, and as it’s grown over the years, our vacant spaces or spaces to develop are harder to come by, making planning decisions around those much more critical,” he said.

A redesign and upgrades to McKenzie Avenue around UVic, which includes new bike lanes, will hopefully help encourage more people to ride to campus, Connelly said. The university is also having ongoing discussions with B.C. Transit to create a larger bus loop, tentatively slated for September 2014.

“Transit’s indicated they’re making the campus a priority, relative to demand they get for transit service out this way,” Connelly added.

kslavin@saanichnews.com