Most parking violation tickets at B.C. hospitals go unpaid, says group advocating for free parking

A group advocating for free parking at B.C. hospitals says the majority of people who get a parking ticket at these facilities don't pay them and the system should be overhauled. 

The non-profit organization, Hospital Pay Parking, obtained documents through a Freedom of Information request concerning parking revenue and ticket violations at 11 Island Health facilities on Vancouver Island and eight Interior Health facilities in B.C.'s southern Interior for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. 

According to Hospital Pay Parking, 13,105 parking tickets were issued in the Island Health region and 4,660 of those were paid. At Interior Health facilities,19,401 tickets were issued and 8,068 were paid. 

"I think people have other priorities when they go to a hospital; keeping the meter topped up shouldn't be one of them," said John Buss, lead volunteer for Hospital Pay Parking. "Not many of these tickets are being paid."

In both regions, revenue from the violation tickets goes to parking companies, not the health authorities.

Money made from parking

The group estimates that Impark, the company that runs the lots at Interior Health facilities, made about $460,000 from violation tickets based on the standard $57 ticket. On Vancouver Island, Hospital Pay Parking said Robbins Parking collected about $92,400. 

A statement from the group called the parking system an "exploitative money grab."

"There should be no marriage between the proceeds of pay parking and the specific services or expenses that the health authorities, time and time again, describe as being provided by the proceeds of pay parking," said Buss.

The health authorities do, however, get revenue from users who pay to park — just not from violation tickets. 

According to Hospital Pay Parking, Island Health made $7.9 million in parking fees in the 2017-2018 fiscal year and Interior Health received $5.3 million. That money is used in both regions to cover the cost of regular parking maintenance such as infrastructure upgrades, lighting, security and snow removal.

"The parking is something that is a necessity and in order to fund that parking we need to have a way that doesn't impact funding that goes to patient care," said Craig Paynton, manager of protection, parking and fleet services for Interior Health.

Many tickets cancelled

Paynton said up to 30 per cent of violation tickets are waived and the health authority works with people who cannot afford parking to make sure they still have access to facilities without having to pay.

The information obtained by Hospital Pay Parking confirms this, showing over 5,000 tickets issued at Interior Health facilities were forgiven.

On Vancouver Island, over 3,000 violation tickets were waived and, in a statement, Island Health said Robbins Parking is empathetic to those who are unintentionally delayed. 

The FOI revealed most violations on the island, 67 per cent, were attributed to staff and not visitors. That information was not provided by Interior Health. In both regions, the only vehicles towed from lots belonged to staff.

Call for reform

Buss said he hopes the information will get people talking about pay parking at public hospitals, which he says is inconsistent with the values of a social healthcare system.

"Our goal," said Buss, "is quite simply to have this exploitative user fee reformed into a system that works for everyone and exploits no one."

The documents obtained by Hospital Pay Parking can be found on the group's website.

The facilities included in the data from the Interior are: Royal Inland Hospital, Kelowna General Hospital, Reid's Corner, Cottonwoods, Brookhaven, Burnett, Penticton Regional Hospital and Vernon Jubilee Festival. 

Island facilities include: Oak Bay Lodge, Nanaimo Regional Hospital, Victoria General Hospital, Royal Jubilee Hospital, Gorge Road Hospital, Saanich Peninsula Hospital, Aberdeen Hospital, Glengarry Hospital, Mt. Tolmie Hospital, Priory Hospital and Queen Alexandra Hospital.