Free parkades after 6 p.m., automatic first-hour free parking and $1 hourly on-street parking between 6 and 9 p.m. are a few changes that could be coming to downtown Victoria as a parking services review makes its way to council.
The city plans to vote on changes to parking services in June, as part of a review that began last summer. The analysis was spurred by a decline in city-owned parkade use, a perceived lack of on-street parking availability and Victoria’s general reliance on $15.6 million in parking revenue, among other issues.
“We do have five parkades – they’re very convenient – and we want to make it easier for drivers to use it,” said Dwayne Kalynchuk, Victoria’s engineering director. “Use of our off-street parkades has declined, so we’re trying to improve that infrastructure.”
As part of parkade improvements, staff recommend moving monthly users to higher levels to free up more convenient spaces for short-term use. Parkades would also be free after 6 p.m. (currently $2 for evening parking) and downtown on-street parking would rise to $1/hr between 6 and 9 p.m. to entice drivers into parkades. Free Sunday and holiday parking currently remains unaffected.
Ken Kelly, general manager with the Downtown Business Victoria Association, has been advocating for automatic first-hour free parking for years. He said the proposed changes could still use improvement, but the recommendations are a good first step.
“We’re very fortunate to have a municipality that owns this much downtown parking – 1,900 stalls is huge,” said Kelly, who sits on the city’s parking advisory committee. Control of that parking allows more flexibility when there is a need to increase revenues, he adds. “Many municipalities can’t be as progressive as the City of Victoria.”
A 2012 Colliers International parking rate survey found B.C.’s capital has relatively thrifty parking rates compared to many North American cities.
Victoria’s average monthly ($178), daily ($12.75) and hourly ($2.25) downtown parking fees are lower than 10 major Canadian cities including Vancouver, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Halifax; only Regina offered better rates.
Initiating a fee for evening on-street parking could be problematic, Kelly said, but the public will be given ample time to provide input before council votes on proposed changes in June.
“I actually didn’t use parkades prior to being elected,” said Coun. Shellie Gudgeon, who owns Il Terrazzo restaurant on Johnson Street. “But our parkades are clean and I’m very impressed with the level of safety.”
Gudgeon said hospitality staff sometimes fill nearby on-street parking in the evenings, and shifting vehicles to parkades will be good for businesses and customers who want more convenient parking. She also applauded a staff recommendation to eliminate on-street parking passes for municipal councillors and staff, an incentive in which Gudgeon doesn’t participate.
“It’s a fantastic step,” she said. “We could free up hundreds of spaces downtown.”
Kalynchuk said the city will roll out a comprehensive public input process before council votes on the changes. More recommendations on customer service and enforcement will be presented to council in the coming months as well.
“What we’re trying to do is make it as easy as possible for people to pay,” he said, noting that increasing pre-pay options in parkades and paying by cellphone are being considered. “Convenience is a big issue.”
Staff are also recommending a tiered time zone and pay model for on-street parking, with spaces closer to parkades costing $3 hourly, and less-used spaces outside the downtown core costing $1.50 hourly for up to 24 hours of continuous use.
Council will discuss the parking recommendations as information only at a committee meeting Thursday.
See the full update to council here.