Victoria city councillors voted to not implement free parking at downtown parkades for the time being.
Couns. Charlayne Thornton-Joe and Marianne Alto had put forward a motion for discussion at Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting proposing all of Victoria’s parkades have fees waived for the month of April to assist essential services workers.
“I’m hearing there’s already difficulty for individuals with the stress of working at essential services during this time. Those who rely on public transit have said they want to take their car to have better social distancing,” Thornton-Joe said. “We are hearing from many groups that this is a concern to them, and that any changes in parking at least for this month, and then it will be reviewed, would be much appreciated.”
Alto echoed Thornton-Joe’s thoughts, saying that “one of the pieces of authorization” council has for limiting costs is parking.
On average the downtown parkades bring in approximately $500,000 in revenue every month, but since COVID-19 came into play revenue has dropped to average between $100-$125,000 per month.
This brought up great concern for some councillors, including Coun. Ben Isitt, who argued that if people are coming downtown and using parkades it is because they are still employed.
“My concern is providing relief to someone who doesn’t need it,” he said, proposing that some sort of measurement of financial means or self-declaration process be put in place for people who would need assistance paying for parking. “Maybe someone could hand out a pass?… Presumably that would safeguard a lot of municipal revenue and still provide a mechanism for someone who has experienced hardship – or wants to lie and say they’ve experienced hardship – to access free parking.”
Coun. Geoff Young joked that parkade staff could only give out free parking to people whose cars were worth less than $5,000.
“The fact is that if we wanted to design a way of giving away $125,000 to the people who least need it as opposed to the people who most need it, we would give it to the people who have a vehicle who have a need to come downtown … and who use the vehicle to come downtown because they don’t want to use the free buses,” Young said.
Thornton-Joe added that while she certainly doesn’t want to invite people to come downtown if they don’t need to, the motion is designed to help people who might be facing reduced hours and increased transportation costs.
Council voted seven-to-one, with Thornton-Joe opposing, to send the issue back to staff for review for later consideration.