As part of the Climate Emergency Action Plan presented November 2020, the City of Vancouver released an ambitious”Climate Emergency Parking Program” this week with the intent to encourage electric vehicle purchases, reduce pollution, and of course, to fund the City’s other climate emergency actions. You can take a look at the outline for the program here.
One of the challenges for the initiatives outlined in the Climate Emergency Action Plan is how to fund it all. It has been suggested that charging residents for the use of every residential street to park cars could net the City approximately sixty million dollars in a four year period, and it is proposed that that money could go towards electric vehicle charging stations, infrastructure, priority bus routes, green spaces, and conversion of buildings that use natural gas.
Many of these items should already be provided out of Development Cost Levies and Community Amenity Contributions that come to the city when development is approved, so clarity about how this multi-million dollar revenue source would be allocated would be important. There is also no other city in Canada that has charges for parking on every residential street.
In Vancouver, 54 percent of carbon pollution is from the use of natural gas in buildings and 39 percent is from gas and diesel engines. Charging for the use of the public street to park vehicles is by itself a sound idea if it is universally applied and if funds go directly back into items that provide alternatives to vehicular use, like increased transit and better walking and cycling facilities.
Currently ten percent of the city has some form of parking restrictions. There are residential permit parking areas where residents pay a fee for the right to park in a certain area, and there is residential parking only areas, which are enforced on a complaint basis from residents.
The City’s Emergency Action Parking Team is proposing two fee structures: one is an annual permit of $45.00 a year for residents using the street to park overnight, and an annual ” dirty fuel tax” for vehicles purchased from the model year of 2023. All 2023 vehicles and beyond that are not electric or not low polluting will pay an annual tax of $500 to $1,000.
Vehicles for the disabled are exempted from the dirty fuel tax, and parking will be free in the neighbourhoods for visitors until 10:00 p.m., when a three dollar parking fee is proposed for parking from 10:00 p.m. to 7 a.m.
There is an issue of equity: homeowners that are able to park their vehicles on their own property and off the city streets will be exempt from paying the City’s curb tax or the dirty fuel tax if they are driving a gassy brand new SUV. It is most likely that vehicles parked curbside will be those of renters, shift workers, and those with lower incomes. For workers on a shift bus service may not align with their hours.
One option to solve the equity issue would be to talk to the Province and administer a tax on Vancouver residents’ vehicles through ICBC car insurance renewal annually. That would mean the City would not have to invest in additional staff and vehicle based licence plate recognition (LPR) equipment. The City currently has a Request for Proposals for three vehicles to be installed with this equipment, and may go up to 14 vehicles specially equipped to manage the paid parking permit system.
The other issue is of course regional. In Metro Vancouver there is an 18.5 cent a liter gas tax that provides funding for regional transportation investments. Phased in from 2035 to 2040, there will be no sales of gas powered vehicles in the Province, and that gas tax will need to be replaced by some other mechanism to pay for better regional transit. Will regional road pricing replace the gas tax?
You can learn more about the proposed directions of the Community Emergency Parking Program and take a survey that will be open until July 5 here.
Staff will be collecting input from residents and preparing a report that will be going to Council for approval this Fall. The residential parking curb and dirty fuel taxes are planned to be enacted in 2023.
The short YouTube video below outlines Vancouver’s proposed residential parking tax systems.