An employee who works at the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Centre says she shouldn't have to pay for parking to work at the retail outlet.
The open-air promenade-style outlet mall is located on Sea Island, about three kilometres from Vancouver International Airport. It's about a 5 to 7 minute walk from the Canada Line SkyTrain stop and has around 1,900 parking stalls reserved for customers.
Sandra Hum works at the mall and had been parking for free along with other mall staffers on a strip of YVR-owned land on a service road next to the mall.
Starting May 1, however, the airport authority will enforce parking fees — $4 for each four hours or portion of an hour — on the lot staff had been using.
The airport also reminded mall employees they must buy a parking pass for a YVR-owned employee lot at $69.88 per month if they want to drive to work.
Hum says the parking policy is a significant burden.
"Retail doesn't pay a lot. It's usually minimum or near minimum. I work part-time. $70 is a lot of money. It buys a lot of groceries in my household."
Parking at a premium
A spoksperson from YVR emailed a statement to CBC News saying those parking stalls next the mall were never intended for employee parking, especially when parking capacity on Sea Island is at a premium.
"Since the opening, we have seen abuse of the stalls, including people parking overnight or not using the Centre. Together with McArthurGlen, YVR decided to make this paid parking beginning May 1 to ensure easy access for restaurant patrons at the Centre, the intended use of these stalls."
In a statement, McArthurGlen said its parking policy hasn't changed.
"McArthurGlen's lease requires them to follow the same parking rules as all Sea Island tenants. All 22,000 employees on Sea Island, including McArthurGlen employees, are required to park in the designated employee parking lots made available to them or are encouraged to take the Canada Line. There is no change to parking policy, it has been in effect since July 2015."
But Hum says that parking policy wasn't communicated to her properly.
"I wasn't really officially told anything [when I was hired]. I was happy to get the job. Our coworkers — everybody was parking on this strip. They never enforced it," she said.
And Hum says transit isn't really an option.
"For me — if I'm lucky — it might take me an hour to get home by transit, especially at 10 o'clock at night," she said. "So it's either you pay the $70 or you don't work here."
A tricky issue
Other malls have offered different solutions to tackle the issue of staff parking.
Burnaby's Metrotown offers free staff parking in designated areas but gives customers access to the best spots.
Tsawwassen Mills also offers free parking, while encouraging ride-sharing and transit. It also offers a low-cost shuttle bus to Scott Road station.
In high traffic areas like Vancouver's downtown Pacific Centre, both staff and customers pay for parking.
Retail consultant David Ian Gray says easing staff transportation pressures makes good business sense.
"A knowledgeable, happy, engaged employee begets a really good customer experience and customer satisfaction," he said. "If employees are now getting stressed [about finding] ways to get to work, that means you're less likely to attract good employees."
With files from The Early Edition and Margaret Gallagher