North Vancouver puts squeeze on visitor parking in popular Deep Cove

The measure is viewed as a trade-off to deal with traffic chaos before the Quarry Rock crowd descends on the tiny village to circle its streets endlessly

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The tiny village of Deep Cove on the North Shore is such a popular destination in the summer that circling its streets to find parking can be, by default, the most common activity upon arrival.

And with more and more visitors expected this summer, District of North Vancouver council voted last week to pare back hundreds of unrestricted on-street spots available during the high season, making most of them resident permit-only spaces and turning others into time-limited spots.

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District staff estimated that Deep Cove’s streets have 910 on-street parking spaces, 770 of which did not have restrictions placed on them before council’s vote. The new restrictions will leave just 170 spaces without any limits.

“This is not an insignificant change,” Mayor Mike Little said during the debate, but was viewed as a necessary trade-off to deal with the traffic chaos that descends on Deep Cove every summer before the May long weekend.

Gavin Joyce, the District manager of engineering, parks and facilities, called it council’s “best shot at this time” to address the “chaos” during 2024.

“We’ve made changes to the Cove every single year,” Joyce said. “Whether it’s overflow parking or changes around the (resident permit-only parking).”

However, Joyce said city engineers are “running out, a bit, of the tool kit” of options to deal with conditions. “So it’s down to a community political decision on this front.”

What changes?

Deep Cove has 910 on-street parking spaces, with 80 designated for resident permit-only parking, 60 devoted to limited-time parking and 770 without any restrictions.

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The change will increase resident-permit parking to 350 spaces with an annual permit fee of $35. To encourage turnover, 280 spaces will be subject to time limits for visitors, though not for residents. Another 110 spaces will be open to anyone, but for limited times.

170 street parking spaces will be open without restrictions, which the mayor worried was too far a swing from the public benefits of parking, particularly for Deep Cove businesses that struggle to keep their doors open in the off-season and rely heavily on peak traffic.

Why is it changing?

Deep Cove, which was first laid out before the 1930s when there was little in the way of zoning, is thatched with narrow streets and a lot of blind dead ends that are not conducive to high traffic.

With popular beaches and its status as the trailhead for Instagram-famous Quarry Rock, however, thousands of visitors flock to the village on sunny days throughout the summer, which erodes its livability and left many residents feeling like they’ve “been under siege for years,” in the words of Coun. Lisa Muri.

On busy weekends, Muri said it is common to come across cars parked illegally, parked in residents’ private driveways and “driving around the block dozens of times to try to find the coveted parking spot that is a couple of blocks away from (Cove Forest) park.”

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“This is not just about resident-only parking so residents can park on the street and visitors can’t,” Muri said. “This is about managing congestion of cars that don’t stop coming into the area on long weekends.”

How else can people get to Deep Cove?

TransLink’s 211 and 212 bus routes serve the neighbourhood, but only at limited frequency after peak hours, which is “not adequate service for weekends,” said Little.

“We do need to badly increase the weekend access on both the 211 and 212 (bus routes) directly into the Cove,” Little said.

Cycling to Deep Cove is also difficult, which Coun. Jordan Back made not of in his reluctant support of the restrictions.

“I’ll feel more comfortable making parking more restrictive when we have active transportation investments that are complete,” Back said. “Right now, there’s still no safe way to ride to Deep Cove.”

What are some alternatives?

Joyce said it might take a full season before the effects of the restrictions are felt and “folks recognize it’s maybe not worth their while to drive all the way into the Cove because of the limited public parking.” Staff, however, said it intends to report back to council by fall.

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Coun. Catherine Pope endorsed making all street parking paid parking, coupled with strict enforcement and stiff fines, as a means of sending “a strong message that people can’t park for free all day (and) enable better traffic flow.”

Miru said Deep Cove’s congestion problems are similar to situations that other municipalities have resolved in different ways. Anmore, she said, put a reservation system in place to control traffic for the popular Buntzen Lake trails. Horseshoe Bay, she added, has had resident-only parking on most of its streets and directed visitors to central parking lots for decades.

Back suggested Quarry Rock crowds might also be calmed by limiting access through a reservation or permit system for hikers.

“I would love to, again, take another look at the shuttle service and how we can make that more effective,” Back said.

Joyce said an earlier attempt at a shuttle service, which also looped in the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Grouse Mountain as destinations, didn’t attract the ridership that was hoped for.

He said staff are looking at options, such as a dedicated Deep Cove shuttle, with a starting point in the area of the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge.

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