The City of Vancouver adopted a new permit parking strategy for the West End based on market pricing in order to encourage residents who now park on the street to use parking spaces in buildings where they live and free up curbside parking. Apartments in the West End have up to 10,000 empty spaces. Meanwhile drivers visiting the West End searching for a parking spot spend on average 10 minutes and travel roughly three kilometres in search of a space.
The price of a permit for street parking increased to $30 a month, from the previous rate of $6.50 a month. The increase in city revenue (around $400,000) was to be spent on community benefits identified through participatory budgeting, a first for the City. Reflecting a new attitude to parking, the West End policy is expected to serve as a precedent for parking policy across the city.
New policy on parking in West End reflects change in attitude to parking
On February 8, 2017, Vancouver City Council approved the West End Parking Strategy. Rates for street parking permits were raised closer to market pricing in order to encourage residents to park in lots attached to their apartments, making more street parking available. For the first time, the City of Vancouver was to use participatory budgeting to determine how new revenues were spent.
- Charging market rates for permits is expected to encourage residents to park in buildings in which they live, rather than on the street. A survey in 2016 found that up to 10,000 spaces in apartments and condos in the West End were empty because residents either do not have cars or were parking for less money on the street.
- Parking policy is among measures to reduce pressure on curbside parking, reduce emissions and congestion, and enhance safety by reducing traffic related to driving around looking for a parking space.
- Parking policy is considered as a measure to influence choices in mobility, with higher parking costs discouraging driving in private vehicles.
- After increasing permit rates, the next step is to move toward better use of off-street parking, including converting visitor-parking in apartment blocks and condos into pay parking.
- The shift in parking policy is part of change in attitude leading to “debundling” parking from the cost of housing. As of the fall of 2017, the cost of a condo in the Mount Pleasant area includes roughly $40,000 for a parking space.
- The new initiatives were not intended to increase city revenue. In response to public opposition to market-based pricing, the city agreed to give any incremental revenues back to the neighbourhood and to exempt current permit-holders from market-based permit pricing.
- Participatory budgeting means that a neighborhood group, for the first time in Vancouver, will decide how incremental revenues from implementation of a city policy will be spent. The City was to consult with the neighbourhood on the process for participatory budgeting and report to Council in December 2017. Some examples of the options for community-based spending include increased landscaping and public art.
- The approach to parking adopted in the West End could serve as a precedent for parking strategy in Mount Pleasant and other Vancouver neighbourhoods.
- Permit prices increased to $360 annually, effective September 1, 2017, from a previous rate of $72 a year. Current permit holders and low-income households were exempt from the steep increase. Current market pricing at that time was $600 annually.
- The steep increase in price was expected to encourage some residents to use parking spaces available in the building they live. Some buildings have more than 100 unused parking spaces. The West End has 1.5 residential parking spaces for every car registered in the West End permit area. On the street, the West End has 1.5 curbside spaces for every 100 households.
- City of Vancouver surveys indicate a shortage on curbside parking in the West End, leading to residents spending about five minutes – and one kilometre of additional driving – to find parking; visitors spend about 10 minutes and drive about three kilometres to find parking. With residents parking in their own buildings, curbside parking will become more available.
- In response to opposition from low-income residents, the City of Vancouver agreed to exempt current permit holders from the shift toward market pricing. Turnover in residency in the West End is around 20 per cent a year; the City of Vancouver anticipate within five years, most permits will be at the new rates.
- The innovative parking strategy also includes consideration of a reduction of two-hour limits and maximizing use of street parking spaces by designating different uses for curbside spaces, and different pricing at different times of the day.
- The City of Vancouver insisted that the new initiatives were not intended to increase city revenue. In response to public opposition, the city agreed to give any incremental revenues back to the neighbourhood. The City was to consult with the neighbourhood on the process for participatory budgeting and report to City Council in December, 2017. Some examples of the options for community-based spending include spending on landscaping and/ or public art.
- The West End Community Plan, approved in 2013, includes guidelines on parking, transportation, housing, parks, public spaces arts and culture. Better management of neighbourhood parking was set as a priority in Transportation 2040. The City of Vancouver began consultation on the West End Parking Strategy in November 2015 and circulated a draft strategy in the summer of 2016.
- City of Vancouver, Report to Council from general manager of engineering service, Feb 8, 2017. Retrieved Nov 6, 2017.
- City of Vancouver website. West End Parking Strategy. Retrieved Nov 6, 2017
- City of Vancouver news release. Feb. 9, 2017. Retrieved Nov. 6, 2017
Prepared by: Robert Matas, Vancouver City Planning Commission Chronology Committee
Revised: Wednesday, March 28, 2018