'An obscene amount': Anger grows over residential parking fees
Calgarians facing a massive increase in cost just to park in their own neighbourhoods are voicing their concerns.
An online petition titled "Petition against changes to City of Calgary residential parking permit program 2023" has garnered more than 8,000 signatures since beginning last week.
Petition organizer Brenda Tackaberry says she's not surprised by the show of discontent.
"We're amidst record inflation right now. The cost of living is through the roof. And I think passing through these fees at this amount at this time is really insensitive," Tackaberry said.
"So I anticipated that as more people found out about the changes that the city was planning to pass through, more people would get on board and show opposition."
In Calgary, 11,800 households are covered by permitted parking.
The new fee structure would affect many differently, depending on the location and type of home they live in.
According to the city's website, residents of a "ground-oriented dwelling" will need a residential parking permit and will be on the hook for $50 per year for a first permit, $75 per year for a second permit and $125 per year for a third permit.
There is also a "select permit" for those living in small multi-residential buildings and larger ones built before 1945, who will pay $75 per year.
And a "market permit" for those living in large multi-residential buildings built after 1945, who will pay $150 per month if it's city centre, $100 per month if it's inner city or $75 per month if it's suburbs.
A low-income permit priced at $6.25 per month is available for the latter tier.
Anthony Wecels lives in the Mission district just off 4th Street S.W.
His will be one of the most affected areas.
A permit for him to park one of his family's two vehicles on the street will be $150 per month.
"That's an obscene amount just for the luxury of having a vehicle where a lot of people will require it," Wecels said.
"You've got condo fees, you've got mortgage payments, you've got property taxes, whatever your utilities and now on top of that, let's throw an extra $100, $150, $175, depending, a month."
St. Andrews Heights resident Cynthia Caldwell is incensed that she'll be charged $50 to park her own vehicle, and more for a visitor pass for her own neighbourhood, insisting It is not "preferential access.”
"I don't get guaranteed parking. I don't even get guaranteed parking on my street," Caldwell said.
"I get parking permission for somewhere in my neighborhood. How is that preferential?"
On the other side of the Foothills hospital in Parkdale, Lori Somerville figures it will cost her family an extra $400 dollars a year to park in the area of her home.
"I do feel like it's an extra tax burden," Somerville said.
"I don't know why I would be discriminated against when other residents of the city following the same tax formula as I do have that privilege."
The city says it did two rounds of public consultation before approaching council with a proposed residential parking permit fee.
But Calgary Parking Authority general manager Chris Blaschuk says when it presented the plan, the fee was very low compared to today's sticker price.
"We did provide council with a transitional approach to the user fees for the residential program. We were looking at a $15-per-year-per-permit program," Blaschuk said.
"Council at that time asked us to bring forward an option that would see complete recovery of the fees for the program, and so we provided that, and that's what they approved in November."
Blaschuk says the cost of operating the city's residential parking permit program is approximately $1.5 million, and that the incoming fee structure would be revenue-neutral.
Blaschuk also says council could still review the planned fees and make changes.
Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong says his office has been fielding calls from angry residents.
His inner-city ward is one of the most heavily affected by the new rates.
“This is a surprise to most of them (residents calling his office), and they're suddenly going, 'Well, everybody else gets to park in front of the house for free, why not us?'" Wong said.
"Right now, the potential (for it) going back to council would require that it be brought forward for reconsideration. And through the reconsideration, then we'd have to obviously justify why. Why would we get away from a user-pay to an alternative approach? And what would the alternative approach be?"
CTV Calgary surveyed five cities across Canada to compare the cost of residential parking permits.
At the top end, like Wecels paying $150 a month, Calgary is among the most expensive.
Here is how other cities compare:
Regina: $150 a year;
Toronto: $21.34 to $86.29 a year;
Vancouver: $55 a year for most of the city; but
Vancouver, West End: $423 a year;
Winnipeg: $25 a year; and
Edmonton: Currently free but under review.
The city says any current permits expiring between May 23 and Sept. 30 will automatically be extended until Sept. 30 and there is no need to renew at this time.
Starting Aug. 1, residents may be able to renew or apply for and purchase a parking permit at the new fee structure.