The West End has 3,700 vacant stalls, ‘enough parking for everyone’: study

Paul Krueger / Flickr

The parking situation in Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood has been a contentious issue for several months.

But a new study out of UBC claims to have provided a solution.

The City of Vancouver recently approved a parking permit price hike for the West End from $80 to $360 a year. The aim of the increase was to make it easier to find parking and reduce congestion in the area –  it can take people who live there as long as five minutes and over one kilometre of extra driving to find parking.

It’s even worse for visitors – it can take them 10 minutes and three kilometres of extra driving to snag a spot.

The City added that the new rates will cause more people to park in their building lots rather than on the street, freeing up space for “those who need it.”

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READ MORE: City Council approves Vancouver’s West End parking hike

Two UBC researchers recently looked into the issue and found at least 3.700 vacant parking stalls in 46 of the area’s 600-plus residential properties.

Study author Neal Abbott, who is pursuing a master’s degree in UBC’s school of community and regional planning, says that leaves a lot of room for improvement in one of Vancouver’s densest neighbourhoods.

“If we relocate cars to use that excess capacity and charge for short-term parking, you’d have enough parking for everyone,” he said in a news release.

Abbott and study supervisor Alex Bigazzi say the West End actually has more than enough parking to go around. They found many of the residential properties, which offer parking only to building tenants, have 50 or more parking stalls empty, especially during work hours.

Bigazzi, a professor in UBC’s department of civil engineering and school of community and regional planning, says a shared parking program would free up parking spaces without forcing the city or property developers to build more parking lots.

Shared parking is “when two or more entities use the same parking stalls to meet their parking requirements,” according to the study.

“City planners would need to examine the business case and legal requirements for conversion, but ultimately, parking shortages negatively impact residents’ quality of life,” said Abbott.

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The City of Vancouver says on its website that future plans for the West End include looking at allowing off-peak parking in permit spaces and proposing changes to the Zoning and Development Bylaw to allow parking to be rented to other neighbourhood residents.

Part of their plan utilizes the shared parking concept Abbott and Bigazzi studied. The City hopes to unlock unused parking spaces by allowing buildings with unused parking stalls to rent them out to other West End residents.

“There are more residential spaces than cars in the neighbourhood (about 1.5 residential parking spaces for every car registered in the West End permit area). Some buildings have over 100 unused parking spaces, sometimes next to buildings where parking is nearly full,” the City says on its website devoted to West End parking.

A survey in fall 2015 found between 62 and 77 per cent of respondents approved of the shared parking measure.

With files from Paula Baker