Drop Winnipeg parking rates by 75 cents an hour, city report recommends

By | June 3, 2020

A rise in metered parking rates in 2018 had a significant effect on the number of drivers using the spots, and the city should cut back the hourly fee by 75 cents to increase usage, says a new city report.

An analysis prepared for the city’s infrastructure and public works committee suggests the 2018 rate increase of $1.50 per hour for on-street parking resulted in a 37 per cent decrease in the number of hours parked in low-demand zones and a 29 per cent decrease in usage at high-demand locations.

The increase brought parking rates up to $2.50 per hour in the low-demand zones, and $3.50 in high-demand areas.

The report also found Winnipeg charges the highest average hourly parking rates among 10 Canadian cities — including Calgary, Montreal and Toronto.

The report suggests dropping the parking rate could boost hours parked by 30 per cent in low-demand areas, and 18 per cent in high-demand and hospital areas, and would see Winnipeg’s parking fees “more closely aligned with other Canadian cities.”

The recommendation has approval from the head of the Exchange District Business Improvement Zone. Business owners in the area have complained bitterly the city’s rate increase in 2018 has stifled traffic through their stores and restaurants.

“We wanted to see the analysis, and the Exchange District BIZ is pretty comfortable with these numbers. They seem to show they would get us to the type of turnover that we could expect and would bring people back,” said executive director David Pensato.

Infrastructure and public works chair Matt Allard says he will support the rate decrease, saying it would bring Winnipeg closer to the average of what’s being charged in other cities.

The St. Boniface councillor says the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in far less traffic, and a lower parking rate could help recovery.

Infrastructure chair Matt Allard says downtown streets look empty because of the health emergency and a parking rate decrease could help boost business. (John Einarson/CBC)

“The streets are looking pretty empty to me. That’s not a number, but an observation,” Allard said.

The City of Winnipeg’s economist performed what is called a regression analysis to isolate the effects of a number of other factors that might have led to a decrease in parking beyond the hourly rate hike, including fuel costs, road construction, weather, retail shopping habits and major downtown events.

Rate increase not entirely to blame

The city’s analysis concluded the decrease in parking usage can also be attributed in part to the growth of retail in places where there are no parking fees.

The report pointed to Outlet Collection Winnipeg — a 570,000-square-foot mall on Sterling Lyon Parkway — containing four times as much commercial space as the entire Exchange District neighbourhood. 

Increases in shopping online are also suggested as a reason for the drop in demand for parking.

The rate reduction would mean a budget shortfall for the Winnipeg Parking Authority, the report says. It estimates a revenue drop of approximately $452,000 per year. The city would also face a fixed cost of $176,000 to reprogram its pay stations with new rates.

The parking authority is proposing it cover the decrease for one year out of its surplus and then refer future costs of the reduction to the city’s budget process.

The parking authority has a broader review of the city’s parking policy due later this year.

The report is slated to be discussed at next Tuesday’s public works committee meeting.

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