Montreal parking tax with higher rates on surface parking
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Brief summary of this reform
Montreal imposes a special tax on all non-residential parking spaces in the central area (downtown and adjacent inner areas). Exterior surface parking is taxed at a higher rate than indoor parking. In 2013, the tax rate for surface parking was doubled to increase the incentive for such parking lots to be redeveloped.
Why should you care?
Montreal's parking tax is applied to all non-residential parking in the central area. It has apparently played a strong role in spurring the redevelopment of many surface parking lots in the area (although a careful study of the impacts and possible side-effects would be good to see).
Key actor type
enable housing or other infill
City of Montreal
Is it a model or a warning?
Main parking category
Main parking paradigm shift
taxes and levies
Away from excessive supply AND towards more responsiveness to context/market
Adaptive Parking thrust
D: Discourage or limit parking supply in certain contexts
Goals of the reform
Gaining revenue for public transport and prompting redevelopment of parking were twin goals of this parking tax.
The 2013 parking tax rate hike on surface lots was strongly and explicitly linked to the goal of reducing the number of outdoor parking lots and promoting residential development.
Impetus (what problem, campaign, opportunity or event prompted action?)
The excessive number of surface parking lots in central Montreal were seen as "an inefficient use of space which is to be discouraged" and as promoting "an unsustainable car-dependent lifestyle and retards the development of large swaths of downtown" (Alfaro, 2010).
Downtown Montreal has seen a residential development boom since about 2005 or so.
Detailed description of the reform
Montreal imposes a tax on all non-residential parking spaces in the central area (downtown and adjacent inner areas). Perhaps this should be termed a 'levy' since it applies to parking spaces regardless of whether they are open to the public and whether they are priced or not.
Exterior surface parking is taxed at a higher rate than indoor parking to create a stronger incentive for surface parking lots to be redeveloped.
In 2013, to increase this incentive the tax rates for surface parking were doubled, while the tax rate for indoor parking remained unchanged.
Upzoning around the same time further increased the incentive for the owners of surface parking lots to redevelop.
At around the time that the parking tax was imposed, the city also cracked down on illegal unregistered surface parking lots.
Downtown Montreal had numerous surface parking lots before the parking tax (although less so than Canada's more car-dependent prairie cities.
There are two zones, with higher parking tax rates in the central business district (boundaries shown in the image below from Spacing Montreal) and lower parking tax rates in central neighbourhoods beyond the CBD.
Initially the highest charge was CAD19.80 per square metre for a surface lot in the central business district (about CAD300 per year for a three by five meter parking space). The initial tax rate for surface parking in the the central neighbourhoods zone was CAD14.85 per square metre. These rates were doubled in 2013.
The lowest initial charge was CAD4.95 per square metre for an indoor lot in the zone beyond the central business district.
In 2010, the city expected that the tax would collect around CAD20 million per year.
The revenue generated from this tax is earmarked for improving public transport.
According the the City of Montreal (ca. 2016), "There are close to 49,000 parking spots downtown, 11,520 of them on-street and 37,400 in off-street lots. Surface parking lots represent 19% of all off-street parking."
The image above shows surface parking lots in central Montreal in 2010. Image credit Spacing Montreal,
Results or impacts
Anecdotally, many surface parking lots in central Montreal have been closed and redeveloped since the parking tax was imposed. News reports attributed much of this to the incentives from the parking tax, although upzoning and the ongoing development boom must have also played a role.
In 2013, it was reported that "a combination of higher taxes and the transformation of downtown lots into condos has driven indoor parking prices up nearly 12 per cent in Montreal, year over year, the highest leap in the country." (Lampert, 2013)
Fears were expressed before the parking tax was imposed and when the rates were increased that it would have a negative impact on business and investment in the core and prompt development beyond the parking tax areas.
Can anyone point me to any solid evaluations of the impacts of this parking tax?
Sources and acknowledgements
Devin Alfaro (January 17, 2010) The Parking Lot Tax, Spacing Montreal,
Will Montreal Parking Tax Promote Redevelopment or Relocation? Planetizen,
Allison Lampert (January 29, 2013) Taxes on Montreal parking lots have doubled, The Gazette,
Kristian Gravenor (Oct 25, 2012) Parking squeeze: Downtown businesses feeling it,
City of Montreal (ca. 2016) Downtown Strategy BUILDING ON MOMENTUM 2016 Consultation Document,
1 Apr 2021