Vancouver's on-street parking revenue up 400% in 20 years

What's one topic that virtually everyone on Vancouver's minority city council can agree on?

That the city's increasing reliance on parking as a source of revenue is a good thing.

"Policing and fire costs are all run out of our operating budgets, and the revenue we get from parking help offsets that cost," said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. 

It's offsetting that cost more and more. 

Vancouver is forecast to collect $62.9 million in "on-street parking revenue" this year, up from $13.8 million in 1999.

That's an increase of over 400 per cent, and doesn't even factor in money from parking fines, which have gone from $9 million to $21 million during the same span.

Stewart believe it hasn't had an adverse effect for most Vancouverites.  

"In the city, we prioritize parking for residents and small business. That's really the approach here," he said, emphasizing the city continually reviews its policies. 

"But also the revenue we collect for parking is important for our operating budget."

Small proportion of revenue

The increase in parking revenues has come from a number of areas: expanding the number of places where metered parking is in effect, changing the end point for meters being operational from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. and the increasing use of electronic payments.

NPA Coun. Rebecca Bligh says the decade-long trend is understandable because the city is limited in the ways it can raise money outside of property taxes.

"It's a relatively small portion, five per cent of our overall budget. And I think it is an opportunity," she said, adding that she rarely hears from constituents about street parking issues. 

"We've asked staff to find new more creative revenue streams and I know it's wildly unpopular to consider parking being one of those. But I think we ought to look at it."

 

At the same time, staff reports on parking often mention how revenue helps the city fund its other transportation priorities, including the desire to increase the number of trips by active transportation — meaning walking, cycling, or transit.

Or, as the city wrote in the last budget: "Parking-related increases in support of Transportation 2040 objectives will ... ensure on-street availability and reduce congestion and greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts." 

Ben Nelms/CBC

More words

Next week, council will vote on two new parking measures: converting over 260 free spaces adjacent to Fraser Street to metered parking (along with nearby streets in the affected area), and allowing car share vehicles to park at meters for free, in exchange for additional payments by car sharing companies. 

The measures could provide over $1 million in additional revenue to the city, staff estimated in separate reports. 

Left unsaid was the question of what would happen to revenues in the long term if policies to promote active transportation are so successful that parking revenue starts going down.

Green Party Coun. Adriane Carr said it's important to be aware of that long-term possibility — but also not to lose sight of the broader goal. 

"I think that you always make policy decisions based on what you believe should be your end goal ... in the end, I think we are going to see fewer cars."

"We better be careful about how we spend that money."