New mayoral candidate Joe Connelly definitely has the pulse of the city's drivers as he announced that as mayor he would increase parking in the downtown area and avoid controversial projects such as the Peace Bridge across the Bow River downtown. Connelly's out-of-the-gate promise of more downtown parking is an impractical approach to civic building and belies a lack of knowledge about urban design and Calgary's current efforts to make the downtown core more accessible to transit users.
The promise of expanding parking in the downtown area might respond to the heavily reported brouhahas, fusses, and schoolyard variety spats that Calgary's City Council has regularly gotten itself into over parking in the city as evidence accumulates that less parking is a goal that ought to be pursued. All Joe Connelly's promise assures at this point is that if he were mayor, Calgary City Council would sit down again in the fall with a new cast of faces to fine tune the parking problem that has had more than its fair share of the council's agenda.
The suggestion of expanding downtown parking in Calgary is regressive. Cities in the United States such as Columbus have made the decision of late to reduce parking in order to revitalize the downtown area. For Calgary to make such a move would fly in the face of emerging best practice of establishing a strong, interesting urban community. Downtown Calgary is undergoing a significant amount of construction at the moment and the street life of the downtown core is in the process of being redefined with the new projects and renovations. It would be a good time to provide more parking and a number of the new projects that are being built will provide underground parking. Does the city need more than that or would the new mayor be content to lay claim to a kept promise.
A visit to the downtown area on the weekend would find the area quiet, save for a few tourists clicking their cameras at Calgary Tower and a few downtowners seeking out an unhurried coffee. The parking lots, however, are virtually empty save for the spots occupied by the construction workers in the area. Downtown Calgary is hardly used to its maximum potential. It is strictly a business district and there is little to attract people outside of office hours. It is hard to insist that there is a need for more parking when the acres of asphalt the fill up downtown only reach maximum capacity for 60 hours a week at the most.
Hopefully, Calgary's voters know better than the most recent candidate to offer a vision for how the city ought to be run.