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When you or a loved one is rushed into the hospital, the last thing on your mind is calculating how much time you’ll need to pay for at a parking meter. That’s why Jon Buss, lead volunteer of Hospital Pay Parking, is working to improve and even eliminate paid parking at BC hospitals.
Recent proposed changes to parking parking regulations by lot managers, Impark, have prompted the group to double their efforts.
“Unfortunately with the new contract they have a new style that will be more aggressive than what used to be ‘controlled entrance and paid exit’,” Buss told Victoria Buzz.
Currently, BC hospitals have a system where you pay your parking fee upon exiting, similar to parkades downtown. “Whether a day or a week or you just pay at the exit,” Buss said.
Under the new contract, Impark would change the parking system so that visitors or patients would pay for their desired amount of time upfront with tickets being issued to those who outstay their pre-bought time. Under this system, Buss says you have to guess how long you’ll be staying at the hospital and hope that you leave before you’re issued a ticket.
The mentality is “how can we write more tickets?” says Buss.
Instead of Impark’s proposed contract, Buss suggests an alternate exclusivity method or total elimination of paid parking.
Buss recommends limiting hospital parking to staff, patients, and supporters of patients to reduce crowding at lots. To enforce this, he offers one method where municipalities use LPR (automatic license plate registration technology) enforcement to make sure that only vehicles that are registered with the hospital as patients or supporters can park.
To eliminate paid parking entirely, Buss thinks that the cost could fall to taxpayers and that the burden would be minimal.
Right now, hospital parking equates to approximately $34 million in provincial revenue. Buss says that this number, though high for an individual, only amounts to one quarter of 1% of BC’s health system budget. He believes that there are plenty of ways to come up with the money, and that most residents would be willing to pitch in.
“The challenge for us is to find another source for this money,” he said.
“That could fall to a wider range of taxpayers. Maybe a couple of pennies on a Victoria parkade, just ideas with creative solutions [so] we can raise the money on a provincial scale.”
Buss notes that he holds no ill-will towards the private parking companies, but that they should not have been invited to manage public services.
Ministry of Health hears concerns
According to Adrian Dix, BC’s Minister of Health, the province is aware of the public’s concern over the parking situation at hospitals.
“We know that pay parking revenue has increased dramatically over the past 15 years under the previous government,” he told Victoria Buzz. “And I hear the concern about pay parking at hospitals everywhere I go in B.C.”
“Reducing this burden that has grown over the past number of years is one of the issues I am looking at as Minister.”
Currently, the province is reviewing the entire hospital parking system. One step that the province has already taken is that pay parking is not being added to new lot sites.
“If people need relief now from these costs most hospitals have a hardship process to waive fees where it poses a genuine challenge to patients and families and most sites have a variety of pay options to accommodate different types of patient visits, including daily, weekly and extended stay rates as well as subsidized rates for those with financial need,” he said.