At the March 5th Committee of the Whole meeting the term “free” 2hr on-street parking in the downtown was used a lot.
Specifically, whether Guelph should keep “free” 2 hr on-street parking in the future, or whether the City should implement new on-street parking fees to help fund the approved Parking Master Plan (2016). There was only one problem with this debate. It was based on the false premise that 2 hr on-street parking is actually “free” when in fact it is not. On-street parking is not free. The truth is, it is subsidized by the city’s tax budget. See below.
As noted, the current cost to operate and maintain our parking inventory downtown is funded 48% by the general tax base and 52% by parking fees (daily and monthly permits). This breaks down as $1.5M annually coming from our City budget or approximately $23/household.
It is true that the approved Parking Master Plan will result in millions of dollars of new investment in parking inventory downtown over the next decade. It is also true however, that it needs to be paid for. To this end, the collective “we” have a few options.
Option #1 | Static parking fees and continued “free” on-street parking. This option would increase the subsidization through taxes to 65%. Or $4.04M annually. This represents an annual increase of $2.54M to the city’s budget and a $61/year cost to the average homeowner (nearly triple the current $23/year).
Option #2 | Maintain “free” on-street parking and increase daily and monthly fees. This option would increase the subsidization through taxes to 51%. Or $3.2M annually. This represents an annual increase of $1.7M/year to the city’s budget and a $48/year cost to the average homeowner (double the current $23/year).
Option #3 | Blended increases to the tax subsidy and user fees. The tax base subsidy still increases by almost $400k/year with the net subsidy rate (as a percentage) being reduced to 29%. This represents a $29/year annual cost to homeowners (up from the current $23/year), with the remaining funding coming through a mix of user fees (i.e. Daily/Monthly parking passes as well as paid on-street parking). This is the enterprise model council understood in 2016 when approving the Parking Master Plan. A plan which will be jeopardized if not funded properly.
In closing, it’s very important for residents to remember that our downtown is growing…..and it is growing fast. By 2031 it is estmated that our downtown will be home to over 8,000 residents and over 8,000 jobs. This represents an increase of over 30%, making downtown one of the fastest growing and most important economic engines of our City. In order to meet these goals however, we must move towards an intensified parking system; and that system comes at a cost.
As I mentioned on Monday. It can come from the tax base. It can come from user fees. It can come from a mix of both. But it has to come from somewhere. Because one thing is for certain.
It is not “free”.
Ward 1 City Councilor