Vancouver city council has voted unanimously to move ahead with a year-round free parking program for veterans, over the objections of city staff.
Council had told staff last November to come up with a plan that would allow veterans’ licence plate holders to park for free on city property in time for Remembrance Day 2020.
Staff, instead, returned a report recommending that the city not offer the year-round parking, and in fact, cut back on the existing parking perks for veterans.
“When I first heard I was absolutely enraged and extremely disappointed, and I did term the information they did present as absolute bloody nonsense,” retired Lt.-Col. Archie Steacy told Global News.
Steacy is the president of the B.C. Veterans Commemorative Association and spearheaded the creation of veterans plates in B.C.
While the city staff report argued that there are about 12,000 people with veterans status in the City of Vancouver, Steacy said current ICBC data shows just 353 of them hold veterans plates.
He said staff’s suggestion that the free parking program could cost the city $2 million per year in lost revenue was “ridiculous.”
“I guess they have a point that they wanted to make, that they wanted to continue to increase the money to the city from parking, but that’s not the way to do it,” Steacy said.
“(Not) on the backs of veterans who have given so much of their time and their lives in their service.”
Paul Storer, director of transportation for the city, said city staff respect the contributions of veterans and never meant to insult anyone.
Staff returned the recommendation based on “technical concerns” because pay parking is the city’s main tool to manage parking supply in high-demand areas, he said.
“When we looked at providing free parking for a substantial group of people, our concern was about impacting that ability to serve residents and businesses,” Storer said.
“We looked at if we were to provide free parking for veterans what that would look like. Currently there are 5,000 plates in Metro Vancouver,” he added, suggesting offering free parking could incentivize more people to get the plates.
Staff will now review bylaws for needed changes to implement the free parking plan, which Storer said could be implemented by Nov. 4.
The free veterans parking will then operate on a pilot basis for one year.
— With files from Jordan Armstrong