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At the end of a long work day, New York City drivers arrive, tickets in hand, and watch as hydraulic machines slide their vehicles from a third storey bay to the street level below like a giant game of Tetris. Before inching into sluggish New York traffic, they pay the daily $30 parking rate, a fair deal by Manhattan standards.
Closer to home, Vancouver bylaw officers hawkishly monitor on-street parking until 10 p.m., seven days a week including holidays. In addition to downtown, nearly every residential neighbourhood has metered on-street parking peppering its major arteries at an average rate of $7 per hour.
While Victoria isn’t quite the saturated metropolis of either city, a 2012 Colliers International parking rate survey found B.C.’s capital has relatively thrifty parking rates compared to many North American cities.
Victoria’s average monthly ($178), daily ($12.75) and hourly ($2.25) downtown parking fees are lower than 10 major Canadian cities including Vancouver, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Halifax; only Regina offered better rates.
Still, many Victoria residents believe downtown Victoria’s roughly 11,000 parking spots aren’t serving them well, despite the introduction of first-hour free parking, prepaid parking cards and other city conveniences over the past decade.
City parking review underway
To help remedy this discontent, a comprehensive review of the city’s parking services is currently underway, due back before council in October to find out what, if anything, can be done to improve services and increase city revenue.
“The review is about making sure the public is able to park wherever they can and make it as easy as possible,” said Ismo Husu, parking services manager.
Downtown Victoria’s population swells to 200,000 people on an average weekday, leading to common complaints about prices and a lack of readily available parking spots.
Husu is putting together a stakeholder group to focus on four components for the review: customer service, off-street parking, on-street parking and operational service improvements.
“That includes improvement of payment methods, internal contracted services like security in parkades, commissionaires, coin counting, ticket collection. We want to review all of those and see if we can do better,” he said.
Downtown businesses weigh in
Downtown bakery owners, Jeneen and Richard Harrison, spend around $400 each month to keep their delivery van and another vehicle within a block of Bond Bond’s on Blanshard Street.
“Most of our employees bus or walk,” Jeneen said. “We do have one employee with a car, and we’re struggling to find him an affordable spot right now because he starts at 5 a.m.”
Monthly downtown parking stalls are readily available, but the cheaper spots – about 40 per cent of available spaces – have average wait lists of 12 months, according to Colliers.
Harrison said the city should introduce a limited number of cheaper monthly parkade passes for downtown employees, particular those who work for minimum wage.
She also urged the city to tighten its rules around municipal and police vehicles making casual use of on-street parking.
“The (Victoria Police Department) should have to pay for their space when they’re sitting and having lunch down the street, and not use commercial spaces,” she said, a practice she notices occasionally. “If they’re not conducting business, they shouldn’t have that right.”
Guy Le Monnier, manager of the Ambrosia Conference and Event Centre (638 Fisgard St.), said the city could help downtown businesses by allowing drivers to pay past the maximum 90-minute time limit with certain on-street meters.
“As long as you pay, what’s the problem? We’re trying to promote people to come downtown, so if they pay the parking, however long they stay, they shouldn’t get a ticket,” Le Monnier said.
Existing parking bylaws allow downtown businesses to pay $20 per day for temporary use of an on-street parking space for commercial use, but Le Monnier said he can’t be bothered with the application process in his day-to-day operations.
Council hopes to implement parking changes that could include partial automation of city parkades, advertising in parkades and increased rates by January 2014.
Husu said he responds to public inquiries on an ongoing basis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Those comments come directly to me,” he said. “The whole key phrase is making sure people can find a parking space easily. Let’s figure out how we can do that.”
Parking facts & stats
Parking is one of the only revenue methods available to the City of Victoria other than property tax collection. Last year, $7.8 million of the $15.6 million in parking revenue funded city services outside parking.
This year, the city expects to use $8.05 million from parking for other services.
• On-street parking spaces: About 2,000; more than 1,000 in downtown core
• Parking is free after 6 p.m., and free all day Sundays and most statutory holidays
• Prepaid parking cards are available in $25 increments at City Hall; cards can refund unused time to the cardholder from any on-street parking meter
• Use city parkades after 6 p.m. for a flat rate of $2