Victoria is looking into extending paid parking hours downtown to be in effect from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. after council approved a motion in committee of the whole Monday.
If implemented, the parking fees earned in the new hours would be used for beautification, maintenance, cultural opportunities and new parks and amenities in the downtown core.
When introducing the motion, Coun. Matt Dell said the goal of the motion is to create more revenue to invest in improving the downtown core.
“Unfortunately, over the last number of years, our downtown has struggled. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a fantastic place with great businesses, but it needs some love and investment from this council,” Dell said.
“So what gets people downtown? Do they come down for the free parking or do they come down for the amazing cultural experience at our downtown offers? I’ve talked to many people and the attraction to our downtown isn’t free parking it’s that our downtown is beautiful, has incredible businesses has great restaurants, it has incredible events, culture and things to do. We need to work as hard as possible to make our downtown enjoyable experience that keeps people coming back for more.”
Currently, according to the City of Victoria’s parking page, pay parking at on-street meters is in effect from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and parkades have pay parking in effect from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday with free parking on Sundays.
Coun. Chris Coleman was one of two who voted against the motion, and he says his reasons were the increased hours for parkades as well and he worries the longer paid hours will discourage people from coming downtown.
“We always have had a carrot and stick approach where we increase on-street parking, trying to move longer-term parkers into parkades,” Coleman said, noting the goal of the motion is to improve the downtown core and by doing so hopefully encourage people to come downtown if they no longer are.
“I’m still not interested in lifting rate or rates for parkades, because I think that there is this interplay where you can say to folks who perhaps have lost the desire to come downtown to say come back, give us a try. Again, we want to recapture you, and by the way, from six o’clock on it’s free parking and under parkades.”
Jeff Bray, CEO of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, says he is happy to see the fees going towards supporting downtown businesses, though he knows the public may not be happy to see the paid parking hours increased.
“This will generate some significant revenue that could be reinvested into downtown for quick, easy, noticeable things that would make downtown look better,” Bray said.
“We’re just really pleased that this council clearly heard it during the election, they heard it on the doorstep, and they’re finding ways very quickly, to try to do some things that are within their control…to make downtown better, and we’re very happy that they’re looking at ways to do that, and we’re happy to partner with them any way we can.”
Bray says he doesn’t think the increased hours for paid parking in Victoria will deter people from coming downtown.
Todd Litman, executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, says increasing the time that pay parking is in effect is a good policy.
“Parking facilities are costly and so somebody has to pay for them. No parking is ever really free, you either pay directly through some sort of user fee, or you pay indirectly,” Litman said in an interview with CHEK News.
“A little parking fee is the perfect device to weed out the cheapskates think about the lousy customers, the customers that don’t spend very much, they’re the ones that are going to be dissuaded by a modest parking fee. But if you are taking somebody that you really love out on a date, and you’re planning to spend $100 or so, or maybe a couple $100 on a really nice meal, and maybe a show or something like that, $2 or $4 for parking is insignificant.”
Councillors Dell, Jeremy Caradonna, Susan Kim, Krista Loughton, Dave Thompson and Mayor Marianne Alto were in favour of the motion, with councillors Coleman and Marg Gardiner opposed. Coun. Stephen Hammond was not in attendance for the meeting.
This motion will now come back to Victoria council at the March 16 meeting where they will discuss the draft budget and all the feedback the city has received on the draft financial plan before making any final decisions.