As many Calgarians renew their residential parking permits, they’re discovering the permits that were once free now come at a cost — a decision made by the previous city council.
Although the changes were approved in early 2021, the rollout of the new parking permit program was launched January after notices were sent to impacted permit holders last year.
The changes to the program are raising concerns for Judy Jessen, who has parked her vehicle outside her inner city Calgary apartment building for years at no cost.
“It could be challenging,” Jessen told Global News. “(I’m a) senior, widow, on a fixed income.”
The next time Jessen renews her parking permit, she’ll have to pay for what’s called a market permit.
The market permit, introduced earlier this year, allows for residents of eligible, large multi-residential buildings constructed after 1945 to park on the street within 150 meters of their building.
The monthly fees for a market permit vary from $150 in the city centre, $100 in the inner city to $75 in the suburbs.
“There’s a lot of people who cannot afford this, especially at this time,” Jessen said.
“With prices so high as they are for groceries and now you have to pay to park in front of your own home. No, that’s wrong.”
Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott told Global News paying for street-parking is a trade-off to live in an inner city neighbourhood; a trade-off he said he also deals with as a resident.
“We built a city that required a car. In the inner city that requirement is a little different, at least in the sense that people have more options — not unlimited options — but more options to travel differently,” Walcott told Global News.
“Whether it is active transportation, transit, in the inner city, you have the most options of how to get around. Sometimes in the suburbs it’s not the same.”
Among the changes to the residential parking permit program, people who live in standard residential parking permit zones will now have to pay for their permits.
The City of Calgary has several residential parking zones across the city in areas where residents have identified a need for permits, around LRT stations, high density communities and main streets.
Previously, those permits and visitor permits were free, with the third residential permit costing residents $108.90.
Prices range from $100 for the first permit to $250 for the third; with a maximum of two visitor parking permits at a cost of $150 each.
While the permits are valid for two years, the Calgary Parking Authority told Global News they will move to a one-year term once the new fees are implemented to “to lower the upfront costs of the new fees.”
Low income permits are available through the city’s fair entry program.
But the change has prompted an online petition against the new fees.
“While developers gain the upper hand by not having to provide as many parking spaces on their developments in an effort to save them money and encourage more developments and density in the city… The city also makes substantially more money off the permit program, the tax-paying homeowners are burdened with the big cost,” the petition page reads.
The decision to modernize the residential parking permit program, including online registration instead of sticker permits, was in response to the rising cost to operate the program.
According to council discussions when the changes were first discussed, the parking permit program was operating at a net financial loss for the city.
“Every single person in the city was paying for everyone else to park on the street,” Walcott said.
“Now, people who are parking on the street are paying for people to park on the street, and that’s that’s an important change.”
The new parking program is slated to rollout over the next two years as as permits expire and are up for renewal.
Walcott said there will be opportunities to find improvements with the program as the rollout continues and the city gathers feedback from permit holders.
“That doesn’t mean you scrap the program, it just means that you seek to improve it every single year,” he said.
Jessen said she hopes city council takes another look at the program.
“I would just like the whole city to be fair, as far as parking in front of your own home, no matter where you live in the city,” she said.
As the rollout continues, the Calgary Parking Authority said another permit type will be released for eligible residents later this year.