Parking permits sold for too little?
Question: Why are residential parking permits so cheap? $38 – $76 / year depending on the neighbourhood. Most dedicated parking spots cost at least $100/month.
Answer: This echoes a similar question I had a few months ago. You are not the only ones to have noticed this. So have those sharp-eyed gals and guys in the City of Vancouver engineering department, which currently issue about 16,500 permits a year and more all the time as more areas convert to resident-only parking.
Close perusal of Item 2.7 in the currently-under-discussion 2040 Transportation Plan reveals that they are looking at upping the prices of permits and limiting them more. (Relevant section pasted in below.)
The question is, Why did those permits have such a low price to begin with? Because the city wanted to avoid resident backlash when they were first brought in, says the source of all knowledge these days at the city, transportation director Jerry Dobrovolny. (He didn’t know when the first ones started getting issued, so if anyone has that date, I’m happy to add it.)
I note that in a Vancouver Sun story from May 1987, residents in Kitsilano were outraged that they were going to have to pay for $10 permits for their resident parking near then then brand-new Safeway at Broadway and Macdonald. The city grovellingly explained that it was only to cover the basic $400 cost of the decal system.
The cost of the permits has gone up somewhat in many areas since then, as part of the engineering department’s phased approach (or, as some of you might refer to it, stealth attack) to parking.
That is: when the city observes an area is getting crowded, it introduces three-hour parking limits, then two-hour, then one-hour, then meters. The meters start at a low rate then creep up over time, all with the goal of keeping people moving.
However, the rates for parking permits haven’t risen at quite the same rates, although engineers did bring up the idea in the 1997 plan. (It was not taken up very energetically.) Instead, rates have risen only to cover the cost of inflation for running the permit system, not enough to try to change people’s behaviour.
One little secret that Mr. Dobrovolny revealed in our lengthy and mesmerizing talk about parking decals was that the city issues far more West End parking permits than there are actual available spots in the West End.
In a way, that’s a good thing, since people sometimes get permits even when they have paid-for underground parking spots available, just to have free up spots for visiting friends or because they’d rather park on the street than go underground when running multiple errands, as Westender confessed on this blog some months ago.
The idea, if things in the Transportation Plan come to pass, is that the city will start charging rates for permits at slightly above the rate for private parking. That’s what they do with street meters, to encourage longer-term parkers to go to private lots and to keep the street parking for those doing quicker errands.
There’s also a study going on to look at how many underused private parking spots there are in the West End. As Jerry says, the point isn’t to penalize car drivers, but to encourage people to use the spaces that have already been built instead of always trying to find ways to create more spaces.
Here’s the language from the plan:
2.7. Manage parking in neighbourhoods
Curb space on residential streets is often in high demand, and it can be difficult for visitors to find a space. In this
context, some neighbours oppose reduced parking requirements for new development because they assume new
residents will simply park in the street rather than reduce car ownership. While there is strong evidence that
providing less off‐street parking reduces car ownership, particularly when demand management strategies are used,
this is a legitimate concern.
Part of the problem is that curb space is often unregulated and, where permit programs do exist, it is undervalued.
As a result, many residents park in the street even when off‐street parking is readily available. Fewer spaces are
available for visitors, and there is a perceived shortfall. A thoughtful approach to neighbourhood parking can address
these concerns and result in more efficient use of road space. This could allow some on‐street parking to be
converted to other uses such as wider sidewalks, public space, or improved cycling facilities, and even generate
revenue that can be directed towards local amenities.
2.7.1. Adjust the residential parking permit program to address parking spillover concerns associated with off‐street
reductions and to better reflect market value of street space. Possible approaches include:
a. gradually increasing permit costs to reflect market value;
b. limiting the number of permits per household;
c. increasing costs for each additional permit per household;
d. capping the total number of permits and allowing residents to trade rights; and/or
e. piloting a neighbourhood parking benefit district, where permit costs are increased and a portion of the
revenue is directed towards local improvements such as sidewalks, lighting , and nearby amenities.