Tour-bus, horse-drawn-carriage and pedicab operators will all see steep jumps in downtown parking fees under proposed changes to Victoria’s bylaws governing sightseeing businesses.
The changes will, if passed, open up the hours of operation for horse-drawn carriages in Old Town but set limits on the number of passengers that can be carried and the number of hours horses can work in a day. Changes will also restrict the maximum speed electric-assisted pedicabs can travel.
The changes will permit horse-drawn carriages to operate in Old Town any day of the week except during rush hour (between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.). Currently the Vehicles for Hire bylaw prohibits the carriages from operating in Old Town between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, although the city has allowed them to operate in the area on a trial basis for several years. The maximum shift a horse could work will be nine hours.
The bylaws will also set the maximum number of passengers being carried in a wagon pulled by two horses at 20 and the maximum number of passengers in a carriage pulled by one horse at six.
Hopefully, the changes strike a balance between the needs of the animals, the operators, passengers and other vehicles, said Coun. Charlayne Thornton Joe, who takes the city council lead in animal-welfare issues. “I think it’s that fine balance that we try to do. But if vehicle traffic continues to increase downtown, and we have very clear indication that the passengers and the horses are at risk, I think we’re going to move toward [a ban] maybe in the future,” she said.
Changes will also require operators to clearly display their company names on carriages and wagons, Thornton Joe said.
People sometimes comment that horses pulling carriages look stressed or tired or injured, she said. “But they never know the name of the company because it’s not been clearly marked,” she said. “So we’ve asked they indicate their company right on the vehicle.”
Fees for four sightseeing-vehicle parking stands on Belleville and Government streets as well as three stands on Menzies Street for horse-drawn carriages are slated to increase between 32 per cent and 120 per cent.
The new fee schedule calls for the Government Street stands to increase in price 45 per cent to $21,060 a year from the current $14,509; the two Belleville stands will increase 120 per cent to $14,040 from $6,369 and each horse-drawn stand will increase 32 per cent to $14,040 from $10,598.
City staff say the fees haven’t changed since 1998, when parking rates were $1.50 in the downtown core and $1 elsewhere. Current parking rates are $2.50 an hour. If approved, the changes will come into effect April 1.
Pedicabs are allowed to park up to one hour on a yellow curb. In 1996, the council of the day approved a flat fee of $5 per pedicab per day for use of the space by the 20 pedicabs in operation at that time. That translated into an annual fee of $91.25 each. The proposal is to raise that fee to $180 for each pedicab and rickshaw in operation.
While councillors earlier approved changes allowing electric-motor-assisted pedicabs to operate in the city, they are now amending the bylaw to specify that the motor cut out at 10 km/h. Electric-assist bicycles can reach speeds of 32 km/h, which some operators say is too fast to safely operate.
The city will contact operators for comment before the changes come into effect.
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