Victoria Intersection

One of the outcomes of a City of Victoria council meeting on February 11th was the decision to move forward with a motion that would scrap free on-street Sunday parking in the city starting May 1st.

The motion to charge people for what has thus far been a free service was brought forth by Mayor Lisa Helps, and received unanimous approval by all 8 councillors.

The revenue collected from these charges will be used to fund BC Transit passes for youth aged 18 years and under.

A document listing the city’s 2019 Financial Plan motions shows that based on parking revenue generated on Saturdays, charging drivers to park on-street on Sundays would generate an additional $600,000 in revenue per year.

On-street parking zones with a 24-hour time limit have a $9 day rate, and 20-minute meters are $1 per 20 minutes.

Climate change emergency cited as reason for free transit passes

At the meeting, Councillor Ben Isitt expressed his wish to provide free transit passes to every Victoria resident.

“For me, delivering free transit for everyone is a top priority in the context of a climate emergency,” said Isitt at the meeting. “And it’s not the city doing it for free; it’s that the tax payers are funding that program on a socialized, universal basis.”

However, Helps expressed the need to “start somewhere”, and argued that rolling out a free youth bus pass program starting September 1st, 2019 would be ideal. She also stated that she will be bringing this objective to the next transit commission meeting.

The Mayor then pointed to the city of Kingston, ON whose municipal government won an FCM (Federation of Canadian Municipalities) leadership award for a similar initiative, and since then, the community has seen an increase in youth transit ridership.

Funding and consultation

The question of who should be funding this initiative weighed heavy among the councillors, as the conversation turned to how much of the financial onus should be taken on by BC Transit and the provincial government, rather than the municipality.

Mayor Lisa Helps will be bringing the motion to transit commission at their next meeting on February 25th. Should BC Transit agree to fund the free youth pass program for the entire region without help from the City of Victoria, the additional revenue from charging drivers for Sunday on-street parking would be devoted to other climate action causes.

“I would recommend that the money then be earmarked by council for the implementation of other portions of the city’s climate leadership plan,” Mayor Lisa Helps told Victoria Buzz.

According to City of Victoria spokesperson Bill Eisenhauer, while no public consultation process was undertaken by the municipality in bringing forth this motion (and there are no future plans to seek input from the constituency), council did take into consultation the views of local businesses and organizations like the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA).

According to DVBA Executive Director Jeff Bray, scrapping free on-street Sunday parking may not be such a bad thing for people visiting the downtown core on Sundays.

“Anecdotally, we’ve heard that Sunday parking can be very difficult for customers on street. In many cases, business employees are the first downtown and they park on the street because it’s free all day,” Bray told Victoria Buzz.

Similarly, many people who drive downtown on Saturday night and, maybe after a few drinks, decide to leave their vehicles in an on-street parking spot.

Even though this is the right thing to do, these drivers sometimes don’t retrieve their cars until much later on Sunday, since parking is free all day.

“So people who want to come downtown on Sunday for a short time can’t find parking on-street,” continues Bray.

“Parkades still have lots of parking, except the Yates Street parkade. Potentially, paid on-street parking will help free up spots for people who pop down for short periods of time, while people there for longer visits can still use the free parkades.”

This motion still needs to be approved as part of the city’s budget on February 28th before it can move forward.

Victoria Buzz has reached out to Mayor Lisa Helps for further comments.