Vancouver’s West End residential permit reforms

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Brief summary of this reform

In West End Vancouver, residential on-street parking permit prices were shifted to market-based rates. But only for new permits. Existing permit holders could renew at grandfathered prices and low-income households pay the same price as these legacy permit holders. Together with some other parking management improvements, these changes have greatly eased the previous on-street parking problems and have increased the use of the existing off-street residential parking.

Why should you care?

This is a rare case of charging high, ‘market-based’ prices for on-street residential parking permits.

However, only NEW permits attract the market-based price. Holders of permits before the reform can continue to renew their permits at the old price (it was ‘grandfathered’). In addition, low-income residents are also eligible for the old price.

These features made the reform politically feasible. Nevertheless, because roughly 20% of legacy permits are NOT renewed each year, the number of permits at the grandfathered price is expected to decline quite quickly.

Country

Canada

Vehicle type

cars

State/province

British Columbia

Key actor type

Local government

Jurisdiction

City of Vancouver

Primary motivation

orderly parking (usually for wider benefits too)

Agencies involved

City of Vancouver

Is it a model or a warning?

useful model

Reform type

Main parking category

Main parking paradigm shift

permits

On-street in mainly residential streets

Towards more responsiveness to context/market

Adaptive Parking thrust

Implementation status

Year adopted

P: Price parking in the right ways and with the right rates for each place and time

implemented

2017

Goals of the reform

“Our goal is to make it easier to find parking in the West End permit zone without encouraging more driving overall.” https://vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/west-end-parking-strategy.aspx

Impetus (what problem, campaign, opportunity or event prompted action?)

According to https://vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/west-end-parking-strategy.aspx

On-street parking was overburdened before the reform. Finding parking took residents 5 minutes on average and visitors took 10 minutes.

Before the 1 September 2017 changes, on-street permits were much cheaper (at $6 per month) than off-street parking in residents’ own buildings (which cost $50 per month usually). Note that residential home-based parking is typically unbundled in this area.

Many residents were parking in the street, even though most had parking available in their building and the area overall had about 1.5 residential parking spaces for every car registered in the area.

It seemed clear that better management of the on-street parking permit system should be able to ease the problem.

Detailed description of the reform

Under Vancouver’s West End Parking Strategy, bold reforms to the residential on-street parking permit were made in this dense area just west of Downtown Vancouver.

The key change was a shift to market-based prices but only for new permits. Existing permit holders In West End Vancouver had their prices grandfathered, although indexed to inflation. Low-income households pay the same price as the existing permit holders.

The idea is that permit turnover will gradually bring most permits onto the new market rates to enable a better balance of supply and demand, mostly by prompting more people to park in the parking in their buildings instead of in the streets. At the time of the reform, it was predicted that high permit turnover in the area would mean that only about 1 in 5 original permit holders would remain after 5 years. Approximately 20% of West End households had parking permits at the time.

Starting in 2017, permit prices were shifted to market-based rates of CAN$360 per year ($30 per month). The initial proposal had been $50 per month and was based on existing off-street parking prices. The lower initial rate was based on “more detailed modelling of the value of on-street parking compared to off-street spaces”.

As of 2021, the market rate for West End Vancouver street parking permits is CAN$$401.13. The non-market legacy rate (for existing legacy permit holders) is CAN$90.93 and the non-market exempt rate (for low income household) CAN$90.93.

The City undertook that any increase in revenue from the sale of permits at the new rates would be reinvested in the West End according to needs identified by the community (a parking benefit district arrangement).

The reform also included an effort to enable residential buildings with excess parking to voluntarily rent spaces to other residents of the area. It was estimated that, although some buildings had parking that was nearly full, others nearby had much unused parking and that, overall, there were many more residential spaces than cars in the area.

On-street parking management was also improved in the area, by modernising parking enforcement, expanding parking pricing for visitors (free two-hour parking spaces were replaced with $1.00 per hour metered parking with a time limit of three hours). If the reforms succeeded in reducing demand for on-street parking, the city also planned to allow visitor parking in permit-only spaces at low-demand times and to convert some residential parking to visitor parking.

Results or impacts

According to a Feb 22 2019 report by Kenneth Chan of the Daily Hive (Urbanized section), the City seemed happy with the results so far. The number of permits sold each year dropped, although not as quickly as expected. In the year up to the end of the 2018 permit renewal period, the sale of non-market permits to existing permit holders had decreased by 21%.

The number of active permits still greatly exceeded on-street parking supply at that time, with over 6,700 active permits but about 2,700 on-street permit-only parking spaces. Nevertheless, parking availability for visitors had improved, both based on anecdotal feedback and based on occupancy data, with many fewer blocks missing the city’s targets for on-street parking vacancy rates.

The City is now planning to extend parking permits to the whole city. It will be interesting to see if this proceeds and whether it follows the West End Vancouver approach.

Sources and acknowledgements

Painted Greek Island

Last updated: 

7 Jun 2021