Friday, August 7, 2009

Bad karma, bad parkma

So long EasyPark Chinatown Plaza Parkade.

Or, as they say in Mandarin, zai jian.

Tonight's the end of our great relationship. You were like an oasis in a parking desert.

As parkades go, you were among the cleaner ones. The stairwells were less urine-stained and cigarette-butt polluted than most in the city. Maybe that's because they are closed for security precautions when the evening progresses. I never saw broken glass beside a car. I had peace of mind that my wheels were safe and secure. Maybe the security attendant on patrol was another deterrent. Maybe it was the Feng Shui vibe.

I joined the line up of vehicles on Columbia Street on Aug. 7. I turned the corner onto Keefer Street to the point of no return. The bargain $3 evening flat rate signs were gone, replaced by ones proclaiming $15 event parking because of the B.C. Lions' game 3.5 kilometres away at B.C. Place Stadium. Yes, $15. The price quintupled. In the middle of a recession.

Usually a price increase is justified with an improvement in service, but I hardly expect to return to find my car washed, shined and polished.

Gone were the kind booth attendants to take my toonie and loonie combo. Credit cards are now accepted. What a hollow consolation that is. The surly woman who processed the transaction will probably be replaced by a machine sooner than later.

I did get a relatively decent parking space, only two floors from ground level. That's because the parkade is more than half empty. It wasn't that way when the cost was $3 a spot and demand was high.

Tonight there are 30,000 people at B.C. Place Stadium and a few thousand at the Chinatown Night Market. EasyPark, which is owned by city hall, is reaping the bad karma of a silly decision obviously connected to city council's desperate need to pay its Olympic bills.

EasyPark is the brand name for the Downtown Parking Corporation, which registered a tidy $17.1 million profit in 2008. City hall got into the business of selling parking to attract people to the downtown core where it was hoped they would do business, shop and eat, thus benefit the economy. EasyPark is no longer easy on budget-conscious sports fans. Certainly this will also impact Chinatown Night Market merchants and shoppers and those who play soccer, softball, Gaelic football and ultimate on the Andy Livingstone Park synthetic turf fields.

The net effect will be fewer people visiting Chinatown.

So, goodbye Chinatown Parkade.

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