Victoria councillors will consider charging for metered parking downtown on Sundays as a way to fund free bus passes for city youth 18 years and under.
Councillors have directed staff to crunch the numbers on the idea as part of 2019 budget deliberations.
“We’ll get a report back from staff at the end of January and we’ll consider it along with all of the other budget for 2019,” Mayor Lisa Helps said. “But I think it’s a proposal that has strong merits and would have a wide level of support because it tackles a wide number of issues all at once.”
Parking would remain free on Sundays in city-owned parkades.
Helps said providing free transit for youth has merit from a number of perspectives, including:
• Affordability — Families could save about $540 a year per child for bus passes.
• Freedom of mobility and youth empowerment — Older youth would be able to take the bus to activities rather than relying on parents to drive them.
• Climate change — Fewer cars on the road as youth use the bus means a reduction in greenhouse gases.
• Imprinting positive behaviour — Transit use could become a habit that is carried on later in life.
Helps said “back of envelope” estimates put the cost of the transit-pass program at about $1 million a year if the city could negotiate a rate of about $11.20 per month for a bus pass. “So we’d need to see, does [Sunday] on-street parking revenue cover that,” she said.
The city currently nets about $9 million a year in parking revenue.
Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, said the organization “is open to the exploration” of paid Sunday street parking.
“But we make a real distinction between parking on the street and the parkades,” Bray said. “We would not support paid parking in the parkades on Sundays.”
He said the DVBA’s general membership has yet to be consulted on the idea, but that there is anecdotal evidence that street parking downtown can be hard to find either because of people leaving their cars out from the night before or from shop employees parking on the street.
The lack of turnover on street parking on Sundays is a challenge, Helps said.
“That’s not what you want as a business owner. You want the spot freed up in front of your store,” she said.
“So if we keep parkades free on Sunday [and] charge for on-street parking, we’re kind of tackling that turnover issue. We’re keeping parking free in parkades for people who are going to church or working or whatever, and with the added revenue, we can put it toward cutting the cost of transit for our kids 18 and under.”
Helps envisions the program being administered through the school district.
“So in September when kids go back to school, whether they go to Victoria or Oak Bay or Esquimalt, they take a parents’ utility bill or a lease agreement or whatever to prove they are a Victoria resident, then they get their pass for the whole year,” she said.
The city expects to open its budget survey for public input around Dec. 17. The survey will remain open for the rest of the month and much of January, Helps said.
A final decision will be made in early February.