About 75 Thurlow ward residents heard a high level presentation on a draft 2018 budget for the City of Belleville Thursday night but much of the discussion centered on parking for Belleville Senators hockey games.
At a public information meeting hosted by Thurlow councillors Paul Carr and Jackie Denyes, one man said he thought there was too much VIP parking at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre for Senators games.
That led to a discussion on the shuttle bus Park and Ride service offered by the city that takes people from the Quinte Mall parking lot to the rink and back.
There was general agreement that taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing that service for hockey fans.
Councillors Carr and Denyes said that a report just released showed that the service will have paid for itself by the end of the season with extra business sponsorship coming on board recently. City staff predict the Park and Ride service will end the season with a total ridership of around 10,000.
However, the just released report asks city council to approve a little over $36,000 in the 2018 budget to support next season’s Park and Ride service, adding that business sponsorship will again be solicited and that figure would likely go down, but there were no guarantees at this point.
The councillors said that request will be part of next week’s budget discussions and no decisions have been made yet.
One man again stressed that hockey fans should be paying for any game related parking and transportation issues and suggested he’d be willing to pay a little more to use Park and Ride to make sure other taxpayers weren’t subsidizing them.
Another man wondered why parking was free in the Wellness Centre parking lot and charged for in other lots while others thought the city should use the hydro line property nearby and build a parking lot to hold the overflow of fans.
Meanwhile, a woman wondered why council authorized the addition and expansion of public transit routes to include service to Shorelines Casino but recently cancelled city bus service in the Maitland Drive area.
She said that especially on weekends, the residential area north of Highway 401 was busy with teenagers wandering around and that the area was constantly growing and municipal transit was much needed in the area.
Councillor Denyes agreed that a demand for public transit north of the 401 was a reality, but that the city tried offering regular bus service for a 10 month trial period and very few riders used it.
“We can’t have buses driving around all day empty.”
Both councillors said that with more development and road upgrades, the discussion about expanding public transit into the northern part of the city will most definitely be coming up again in the forseeable future.