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GUEST OPINION: Parking fees contribute to city revenues

Coun. Mike Duffy, chairman of the public works committee
Mike Duffy is councillor for Ward 3 in Charlottetown.- Contributed

Mike Duffy
Guest opinion

As most may be aware, one of the issues before Charlottetown city council is an increase in fees at both the city’s parking meters and parkades. Parking meter rates are scheduled to go from $1.50 to $2 per hour, and in the parkades, parking fees are scheduled to go from $115 to $150 per month. These fees are proportionate. This means if a visit to a downtown business was to last 15 minutes, the required parking fee would be 50 cents.

I do not believe the public has been provided with all the facts surrounding the issue of raising these rates. The purpose of this piece is to hopefully provide the facts and dispel any misinformation.

Parking meters throughout the downtown core of Charlottetown are there for the short-term use of customers and clients of the businesses. They are the costliest form of parking in any municipality. They are not intended or programmed for full-day parking. This concept is to keep the turnover high so that customers and clients of the businesses can find parking and are encouraged to come downtown.

There are provisions for those individuals for whom the parking meters are not intended to serve, those being one of the city’s 1,422 parking spaces within Queen, Pownal or Fitzroy parkades, or parking at other private parking lots. Park-and-ride options are also available with a robust public transit system downtown. 

Providing parking facilities in any municipality is an expensive undertaking and the City of Charlottetown is no exception. 

Renovations of the Fitzroy Parkade have just been completed which, among other things, has increased the parking capacity to 628 parking spaces at a cost of $3.3M. The Queen Parkade, with 336 spaces, is the oldest parking structure in the city. This facility is showing its age and requires a multi-million-dollar infrastructure upgrade sooner rather than later. The Pownal Parkade, which has 458 spaces, is in fairly good condition, but requires infrastructure upgrades as well, including the recently completed LED lighting replacement project. 

One major element of the city's financial plans includes gradual fee increases for parking at the meters and the parkades to assist with the required infrastructure investment. The logic is that users of the parking services downtown should contribute to the cost of the parkade renovations and parking meters, as it is they who directly utilize them.

One event in our plan that we were not anticipating was the pandemic and its cost.

On March 19, 2020, the city established a "parking fee hiatus" by suspending all parking fees payable for the use of the parking meters and on July 3, these two parking fees were re-instated. Over this period, and the projected period leading up to March 31, 2021, if trends continue, city revenues in this area will be reduced by approximately $2.2 million from what was anticipated at budget time.  

To make matters worse, with COVID-19 came a move by many employees to work remotely. This change of workplace has caused them to cancel their plans for parking their vehicle in the parkade and therefore have cancelled their monthly parkade contract. To date, there are more than 100 vehicle parking cancellations.

The Municipal Government Act states that municipalities in P.E.I. cannot begin a new fiscal year in a deficit position; therefore, this unanticipated $2.2M must be generated or found by March 31, 2021. This at a time when we are heading into our snow-clearing season which, in the recent past, has presented its own challenges.

I get the distinct feeling that City Hall, in this situation, is being regarded as taking a “cash grab” at a most inopportune time. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

As previously stated, the city cannot start April 1, 2021 with a deficit; this $2.2M must be found by March 31, 2021 or become the city’s first expensed entry. To successfully address this deficit are three options:

  1. The city could continue with the budgetary plan to raise parking meter and parkade fees as budgeted, while searching for spending reductions in our current budget.
  2. The city could raise taxes.
  3. The city could cut services, including potential layoffs.

It should be noted that all options will involve all taxpayers, whether they own a car or not, and/or shop downtown. Whatever the option, is it not important that the user of the services to contribute to the $2.2 million deficit and possibly a small share of any balance shortfall?  

The public should contact their city councillor to advise them of how they –  as a citizen of Charlottetown – think their councillor should vote.

Mike Duffy is councillor for Ward 3 in Charlottetown.

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