Winnipeggers could soon see decreased rates for street parking

By | June 3, 2020

WINNIPEG — A new report is recommending the City of Winnipeg decrease hourly rates by 75 cents for on-street parking.

The Winnipeg public service also suggests these new rates be implemented within two months of approval.

This report comes after the standing policy committee on infrastructure renewal and public works directed the public service to analyze the city’s parking rates in order to determine if changes need to be made.

The Winnipeg Parking Authority (WPA) then worked with the city economist’s office to examine parking demand, review occupancy data and compare Winnipeg’s rates to those in other Canadian municipalities. The WPA also surveyed residents and spoke with the Downtown Exchange and West End BIZ groups to understand how parking prices are impacting local businesses.

The WPA concluded that a $0.75 reduction in city-wide parking rates would mean an increase in the demand for on-street parking, and will also lead to an increase in occupancy rates in low-demand, high-demand, and hospital zones.

“Its demonstrated that our pricing wasn’t in alignment with getting the target number of occupancy at 80 to 85 per cent that we wanted,” said Randy Topolniski, the COO for the WPA.

Coun. Matt Allard said he thinks this rate decrease will help drive up demand for parking, but that the pandemic has really changed things.

“I think the reality is COVID-19 has really changed a lot of things, including demand for parking, and I look forward to having the exchange with the department at the public works meeting,” he said, noting they need to continue talking about what the appropriate pricing is.

Allard noted the analysis was done pre-pandemic and will need some updating in the future.

The report notes that this reduction in parking rates would cause a decrease in revenue of about $452,000 per year.

Allard said the report doesn’t get into a lot of detail about how this money will be recovered.

“Certainly that is the part of the report that I think needs to have the most attention in terms of scrutiny from our colleagues is ‘where is this money going to come from in the end?’” he said.

“The report does talk about strategic opportunities in the future, but there’s no details yet about what those strategic opportunities might be.”

Allard said he plans on supporting the report.

“It’s pretty clear from the regression analysis that Winnipeg downtown parking was priced a little bit high and the report aims to create that best practice of about 15 per cent of vacancy rate on the street,” he said.

“The few times I’ve been downtown there’s been lots of parking available, which tells me the price is too high and that’s confirmed by this report.”

CURRENT PARKING RATES

In May 2018, the City of Winnipeg increased on-street parking rates by $1.50 an hour. This means rates are $2.50 in low-demand areas, and $3.50 in high-demand and hospital areas.

The WPA has met with the Downtown and Exchange BIZ groups several times and determined that this price increase has had a negative impact on businesses in the areas.

“100 per cent it did. I mean there is no argument that the rate of $3.50 was outrageous,” said Obby Khan, who is the founder and CEO of Shawarma Khan, which is located in the Exchange District.

“I am very happy to see that we are seeing a reduction of $0.75 right now. I think this is going to be great for the Exchange, it’s going to great for downtown businesses and this is a very positive step in the right direction,” he added.

West End BIZ said local businesses did not see a noticeable impact from the rate increase, attributing this to the employees’ use of active transportation, as well as a mix of metered and un-metered street parking.

The Downtown and Exchange BIZ groups, as well as a number of business owners, attended the WPA’s 2020 budget meeting and asked for parking rates to be reduced. A petition signed by Exchange District businesses was also submitted to the city.

The report will be discussed at the standing policy committee on infrastructure renewal and public works meeting on June 9.

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