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Increase in visitor paid parking rates up for discussion

“I would like to see a rate increase… I see that there is a lot of potential for user-pay parking and this is an opportunity for our residents to be supported by our visitors,” said Councillor Barb Pelham
Paid parking near Banff town hall. EVAN BUHLER RMO PHOTO

BANFF – A potential hike in paid parking fees for visitors is on the discussion table to generate additional revenue for the tourist town.

During discussion on Banff’s annual fees and charges bylaw at the Dec. 6 council meeting, Councillor Barb Pelham brought up the idea of raising parking fees for visitors based on the success of the program so far.

She said her initial idea was to increase visitor paid parking from $3 to $5 an hour in summer and from $2 to $4 an hour in winter, to keep residents at the existing rates, and to look at other areas in town where paid parking could be implemented.

“I would like to see a rate increase… I see that there is a lot of potential for user-pay parking and this is an opportunity for our residents to be supported by our visitors,” said Coun. Pelham during Monday’s meeting.

Since July, visitor paid parking has been in effect in Banff’s downtown in a bid to increase the availability of short-term parking in the downtown core and encourage visitors to park at the free intercept lot at the train station.

Banff residents who have a resident vehicle parking permit can park for free for up to three hours per day in the paid zone, if they have registered their licence plates with the Town of Banff.

Free nine-hour parking is available at the 500-stall train station parking lot, along Bow Avenue and in the Bear Street Parkade.

Based on existing rates, future paid parking net revenue is estimated at $1.58 million in 2022, $1.75 million in 2023 and $1.82 million in 2024.

Banff’s paid parking reserve policy stipulates how paid parking profits are spent.

Currently, profits can fund operating or capital costs related to roadway and parking improvements, transit enhancements, increased snow clearing, cycling or other active transportation initiatives and transportation decarbonization projects, tax stabilization and economic recovery.

Town Manager Kelly Gibson cautioned against having different rates for visitors and residents, though it certainly could be done.

“It does cause some optic issues and some questions as to why there’s a different rate for one or the other,” he said.

“If we could have one rate for simplicity that would be preferred, and if the concern is about costs for residents, you could increase the number of free hours that were given or something.”

Based on advice from Town administration, Pelham plans to bring the issue up for further discussion during the municipal enforcement section of service review, currently scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 15.

From there, the likely outcome will be that the governance and finance committee will ask administration to bring a report on visitor paid parking to council in the first three months of 2022.

Pelham, who would like to discuss increasing fees, other visitor paid parking locations and potential partner strategies, has not always been in favour of paid parking, but she was also impressed by how smoothly the program was rolled out this year and the potential revenue it can bring in for the town.

“It took me years to wrap my head around the fact that our parking is actually not free, never has been free, but that residents were burdened completely with the cost of supporting it and serving it,” she said. “Our visitors have the ability and the desire to park in Banff and I would like to see an increase in that rate to support our efforts to service our town, but also to service our looming upcoming tax hole short-term while we need it in the next couple of years.”

Councillor Grant Canning said he too wants to have the discussion, suggesting the way to go would be to have administration bring back a report within the first three months of the new year.

“In that report, we could get a much more holistic discussion around what is being charged, where it’s being charged. I think beyond just the hourly rate, there’s also another issue as to should we be expanding where we charge for paid parking as well,” he said. “I just think it would be much better and much more appropriate to have a bigger discussion point rather than just trying to come up with different rates off the top of our head.”

Councillor Kaylee Ram echoed those sentiments.

“I think we’ve all seen the high financial benefit from visitor paid parking,” said Ram, who noted she also struggled initially with the concept of paid parking.

“But seeing all the funding that it helps provide different services around the town, it’s clear that it has a great beneficial impact on our town, but looking at it from a holistic side, I’d look forward to talking about that in Q1 for sure.”

Councillor Chip Olver said she would like to see some form of public consultation if rates were to go up.

“Council did receive a letter today from someone who has to navigate a steep hill if they’re walking and they say ‘please don’t charge anything to park in the winter time’,” she said. “So there certainly is a diversity of opinion in our community.”