COLUMN — What would it take to lure you into a parkade? Wait, let me rephrase that …
Hence Victoria’s decision to, as of this fall, entice drivers into city-owned parkades with free parking for the first hour and after 6 p.m.
The goal is to free up more parking on the street, where the hourly rate within a three-minute walk of a parkade will go to $3 from $2.50.
The carrot-and-stick solution seems as good as any, given the prickly nature of parking politics.
Nobody likes paying for parking. We particularly don’t like paying where it used to be free. Note the grumbling from the Lower Mainland, where the Vancouver school board just announced it will begin charging staff for parking next year (assuming teachers and the provincial government aren’t still locked in one of the more violent phases of their 100 Years War).
It will only charge $10 to $15 a month but employees still aren’t happy about giving up a perk long considered part of the compensation package.
That echoes the big fuss of 1999 when the Capital Health Region, now part of Island Health, declared that employee parking rates at Royal Jubilee, Victoria General and other sites would jump from 38 cents a day to $1.75.
In Langford (civic motto: park free or die), the imposition of pay parking at the Priory Hospital and Heritage Woods prompted staff and visitors to crowd their cars onto the shoulder of Goldstream Avenue.
Mayor Stew Young threatened to send bylaw officers after the health authority unless it got rid of what he called an unlicensed pay-parking business.
We may get worked up, but parking is relatively cheap in Victoria (certainly nothing like Hong Kong, where a developer recently sold 500 parking spaces for $167,000 each). In 2012, the average median rate for a monthly unreserved spot in a covered downtown Victoria lot was $185 a month, well below the Canadian average of $242, according to Colliers International. Calgary was most expensive at $440.
As a rule of thumb, the closer you are to the core, the more you pay, though there are exceptions. Twenty years ago, the government and the BCGEU got in a tussle over $15-a-month parking in a handful of lots near the legislature.
The union argued that the lots in question had been acquired in the 1950s and the 1960s by a society formed by civil servants and subsequently turned over to the government on the condition that rates would remain reasonable.
Today, the $15 rate continues to be applied to 300 spots in a lot near the legislature, though it is due to rise to $50 a month on June 1 and $80 — market rate — on Jan. 1.
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of location. City of Victoria employees who toil for public works or in the parks yard don’t pay, but those at City Hall itself pay just like anybody else working downtown — though managers get a reduced rate in parkades. (Metchosin’s municipal workforce? Sometimes he brings his tractor.)
The 4,500 people who work within those bits of CFB Esquimalt that lie within Esquimalt itself — Naden, Dockyard, Work Point — play musical chairs for 4,000 parking spaces. But there’s no fee for those spots, as federal Treasury Board policy is to charge local rates, which in Esquimalt translates to free, as the township doesn’t have metered public parking.
Sometimes parking is used as a social-engineering tool. The University of Victoria began gently crowbarring people out of their cars several years ago when the construction of new buildings reduced the total number of spaces on campus by about 300.
Annual parking fees have risen to $440 for a general permit and $770 for a reserved spot, up from $122 and $213 in 2000; when the university began increasing charges, it said the extra revenue would subsidize employee bus passes, which now cost $38.50 a month.
Student bus passes are even cheaper — $81 a term — the catch being that all students must buy passes whether they want them or not. Still, even with every student carrying a bus pass, the campus’s 4,148 parking spaces are mostly full.
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