Monthly parking rates to increase at city parkades

Drivers with a monthly parking pass could soon be paying more to hold their coveted spot in one of the city's five parkades.

Drivers with a monthly parking pass could soon be paying more to hold their coveted spot in one of the city’s five parkades.

Council unanimously voted on Thursday in favour of increasing monthly parking rates at city parkades, in an effort to free up spaces for short-term visitors and tourists coming to the downtown core.

Monthly parking rates would increase at all five city parkades: Centennial Square monthly passes would jump to $150 from $110, Johnson Street passes increase to $170 from $140, Yates Street passes increase to $200 from $160, View Street passes increase to $200 from $175, and Broughton Street passes increase to $200 from $160.

Monthly parking rates will also increase at the Royal Athletic and Wharf Street surface lots to $100 and $150, respectively.

This is the first increase to monthly parking rates in a decade, and are in line with current market rates, according to a staff report.

Parking is an issue that has plagued the city in recent months. Over the past few years, the city has made numerous changes aimed at improving the parking experience downtown, which has resulted in an increased demand for short-term spaces, particularly during the middle of the day between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays, according to the report.

Currently, roughly 30 per cent of parkade users hold monthly passes, 30 per cent are paying $14.50 to park all day, leaving 40 per cent of spots available to short-term visitors.

It’s a problem that’s being exasperated by the city’s construction boom, said the city’s director of finance Susanne Thompson. Thompson estimated there are roughly 300 to 350 private surface parking spots that have been lost to construction — whether it be construction on the site, parking that’s being used by construction workers, or on-street parking that has been blocked off as a result of construction.

“We hope it’s a short-term pain that will come back into the supply later on,” she said.

Coun. Geoff Young said the increase is a step in the right direction to solving a dynamic, ever-changing problem.

Coun. Chris Coleman believes some people will see it as a cash grab by the city, but will continue to fork out the money in order to have a place to park.

“The reality is some people will look at it (the increase) and say it’s a cash grab because there’s not many options for monthly parkers,” he said, adding the city needs to look at long-term options to alleviate parking, such as potentially building another parkade.

“A lot of these monthly parkers will say it’s too bad the rates are going up, but they still will park there. At the end of the day, people are just going to pay more because they’re forced to.”

The city also hopes to introduce a number of customer service improvements to parkades, which include a new tap and go credit/debit card payment option to speed up transactions, a new cashier system, licence plate recognition for monthly parkers, space count signs and replacing the aging elevator in the View Street parkade.

The city manages roughly 4,200 parking spots — approximately 1,900 on-street, more than 400 in surface lots, and 1,856 in parkades. There are more than 55 privately owned parking lots also open to the public.