A new staff report to Vancouver City Council recommends it approve a controversial plan to tax new vehicles and create permit-only parking zones across the city.
If given the green light, the Climate Emergency Parking Program would take effect in early 2022 and require overnight parking permits for every residential street in the city at a cost of $45 per year.
There would also be an annual “pollution charge” for anyone buying a gas vehicle in a model that’s 2023 or later, and crosses a certain threshold of climate-polluting carbon emissions.
Those charges would range from $0 for electric, hybrid, low-polluting and most economy vehicles to $1,000 for new “high-polluting” vehicles such as large SUVs, full-size pickup trucks, and most gas-powered luxury sports vehicles.
All previously-owned cars or models predating 2023 would be exempt from the fees, as would vehicles adapted for wheelchairs.
According to the report, the program would fit into the city’s broader Climate Emergency Action Pan, which aims to reduce Vancouver’s carbon footprint by 50 per cent by 2030. Transportation, it explains, currently accounts for 39 per cent of emissions in Vancouver.
“This is a more equitable approach to what free parking does actually cost us, and the idea to re-invest that into greener solutions,” said Vancouver Green Party Coun. Pete Fry.
“Maybe we could have more availability of electric chargers, that kind of thing — curb cuts for people who have mobility challenges.”
The proposed permit and fee regime, however climate-friendly, has prompted some concerns.
“It certainly taxes what people use to commute to work, but then it doesn’t necessarily deal with why they use what they use to commute to work,” said Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program.
Some professions, he explained, require use of a private vehicle, or a particular kind of vehicle. Many renters can’t access parking in their buildings and the plan doesn’t address “that reality,” he added.
Overall, the plan risks “penalizing” the “lived working realities” of some Vancouver residents, said Yan.
The plan does take into account concerns for low-income households, offering a reduced overnight parking permit rate of $5 per year for those families.
A fee of $3 for overnight visitors to the city would be charged, and there would be no changes for daytime permitting or parking fees.
The staff report estimates the program will cost $1.7 million to launch, and about $1 million a year to administer. The plan would generate net revenue of up to $68 million over the first four years.
The plan would generate net revenue of up to $68 million over the first four years, and would support other initiatives of the Climate Emergency Action Plan.
If councillors don’t adopt the plan or lower the fee structure, the report adds, the Climate Emergency Action Plan would need to rely on uncertain “senior government funding,” funds redirected from other work, or an increase in property taxes.
The report that recommends these changes will go before council next Tuesday.