Defeating the parking fee is a loss in the fight against climate change, experts say

Planners said the city must do more to curb greenhouse gases

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Vancouver city council’s decision not to adopt a nightly street parking fee was a great missed opportunity in efforts to combat the city’s contribution to climate change, planning experts say.


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Last week, the city council rejected a proposed $ 45 annual residential street parking fee that covers the entire city, compared to about 10 percent for streets now. It also eliminated a tax on the purchase of gasoline vehicles, which would have been $ 500 or $ 1,000, depending on the vehicle.

The fight was between a fee to raise funds to combat climate change and the view that city residents have the right to park their cars for free on their own streets.

It was reduced to one vote. Mayor Kennedy Stewart broke a council tie to defeat the city’s climate emergency parking program, which had been recommended by staff.

Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University, said that most experts agree that all levels of government should address carbon pollution through a carbon tax or other taxes and fees, and regulating polluting technologies, such as a ban on gasoline-powered vehicles. .


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“The city’s proposed parking fee policy was excellent and honest climate politicians would have approved of it, which is a sad comment for the mayor,” he said.

Stewart and the councilors who voted did not say the fee would impose an unfair burden on those least able to pay the fee, such as those living in suites or basement apartments without access to off-street parking.

A record 19,000 respondents, mostly opposed, responded to the city’s public online poll, and an online petition at drew nearly 25,000 signatures against the proposal.

The council voted unanimously in favor of a climate emergency plan in 2020, which directed staff to find ways for the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030. The rejected proposal grew out of that.


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The mayor, who faces voters in the upcoming civic elections a year from now, asked staff last week to find a “better way forward.”

Staff did not respond to a request for comment on next steps on Friday.

There is a global trend to reclaim automobile streets for pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-automobile uses, he said. Werner Antweiler, Associate Professor of Economics at UBC and one of the experts consulted by city staff.

Cities must address the issue of parking prices, he said. “There is a very high cost for free parking.”

Motorists driving through neighborhoods looking for free parking have consequences on the flow of traffic, for example, he said.

“Parking should never be free and we should move it from the surface of the streets to (pay-to-use) parkades,” he said.


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He said the other missed opportunity is lost revenue from the parking fee and pollution charge, which could have been used to install a curbside charging station for electric vehicles.

Antweiler said the staff should have been more specific about what the new revenue would have been used for when writing the rejected proposal. Such details, he said, tend to increase acceptance by taxpayers.

He said the city should have earmarked the $ 44 million to $ 72 million in revenue expected over the first four years specifically for charging stations, a direct benefit for those who don’t have charging stations at home.

He said an even more effective way for cities to deter car use and increase revenue would be a congestion charge, as used in some European cities. Drivers pay a toll to enter an area where space to drive and park is tight, such as the city center.


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“It works,” he said, because the rate applies to vehicles in motion, not those that are parked. “It leads to significant changes in traffic patterns in cities where there are congestion prices.”

Brent Toderian, a former Vancouver city planner who now runs a planning company called Toderian UrbanWorks, said the debate over parking and pricing has always been contentious because of the perceived right to free parking.

Generally speaking, he said that pricing is an “incredibly strategic tool” because “cities almost always need more revenue because cities are chronically underfunded.”

And “pricing is one of the strongest levers in behavior change, particularly for car ownership and use,” he said.

“Almost anything you need to address about parking is likely to be unpopular,” he added, noting that for many, “anything that I currently enjoy for free should never have to pay for.”

But, “if you take the climate emergency seriously, you can’t afford to be stopped by harsh, imperfect or unpopular measures or you won’t get very far in the climate emergency,” he said.



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