A city staff analysis of pay parking rates in Winnipeg that suggests council move to slash the hourly fee by 75 cents has been well-received by some Exchange District business owners who have long said parking fees cut into their bottom line.
The report goes to city council’s infrastructure and public works committee Tuesday.
Currently, the parking rate is $2.50 in low-demand zones and $3.50 in high-demand and hospital zones.
The city raised prices by $1.50 in spring 2018 — something Bodagoes Street Kitchen owner Nick Van Seggelen says never should have happened.
“The jump was not right. It should have been 50 cents, that’s more reasonable. Seventy-five cents, if that’s the way it has to be. It’s better than $3.50,” Van Seggelen said.
Most of the Exchange District is classified as a high-demand zone due to the limited availability of parking spaces — an issue made worse after the city built new cycling lanes in the area last year, business owners said at the time.
Arnold Tiessen, who manages Interior Illusions on Princess Street, said if city council agrees with the Winnipeg Parking Authority staff report, council should also look at re-configuring the bike lanes.
“It’s taken away a lot of parking. That’s the bigger complaint we’re getting from customers,” Tiessen said in an interview on 680 CJOB. “The Exchange District needs to grow — there’s a lot of potential down here, but we seem to have the city continuously throwing roadblocks at it.”
Last year, more than 70 business owners signed a petition asking the city to reconsider both the bike lanes and the parking rates in the area.
In March 2019, council directed city staff to analyze parking rates in Winnipeg and make a recommendation on changes to the rates.
Changing the rates could see “an increase in the demand for on-street paid parking, an indicator of more people visiting paid parking areas such as the downtown and exchange to support local businesses,” city staff wrote in their report.
Axing the fee by 75 cents would bring the rates in line with other comparable cities in Canada, staff also wrote.
The city would lose $452,000 in revenue per year if the rate is reduced, staff estimate, but increase the total number of metred hours parked by 725,496.
Staff recommend the new rates be put in place within two months if the report is accepted by council.
The owner of Into the Music, Greg Tonn, agrees the increased parking rate coupled with road construction and new bike lanes has negatively affected business in the area.
“It’s been a long process of trying to adjust this with city hall. It’s just another obstacle to creating traffic in our store. There’s so much to love about what’s going on here in the Exchange — the architecture, the galleries, the different kinds of shopping experiences, the cube, the arts that goes on here,” Greg Tonn said.
Former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Obby Khan, who owns Shawarma Khan, was pointed in criticizing city hall in their handling of parking rates and obstacles Exchange District businesses see as hurting profits.
At a minimum, Khan wants to see council accept the reduced rates — he also wants council to develop a strategic plan for the neighbourhood.
— with files from Erik Pindera