City of Vancouver to reduce Chinatown street parking rates to $2 per hour

Apr 19 2023, 10:27 pm

Curbside vehicle parking on the street of Vancouver’s historic Chinatown district will be slashed considerably as an attempt to add another way to help boost struggling businesses.

Currently, depending on the city block locations, street parking rates on meters range between $1 to $5 per hour from 9 am to 6 pm and between $1 to $3 per hour from 6 pm to 10 pm. The highest rate of $5 per hour is found over the daytime on the 100 block of East Pender Street and the 200 block of East Georgia Street.

As a pilot project through the end of 2024, City staff are recommending lowering rates to $2 per hour across the district between 9 am and 10 pm.

City staff suggests with the $2 rate, there will be “high” potential for attracting more daytime customers and reducing the perception of expensive parking, while there will be a “medium” potential for attracting evening customers.

Vancouver City Council is expected to approve a form of parking cost reduction for Chinatown in a public meeting next week. City staff’s recommendation follows a direction made in a 2023 operating budget amendment by ABC councillors Sarah Kirby-Yung and Mike Klassen, approved in February during the budget and property tax increase debate.

“We are grateful for this direction and the current City Council delivering on promises in uplifting Chinatown and exploring ways of stimulating the local business economy,” Lorraine Lowe, the executive director of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, told Daily Hive Urbanized.

“Parking is usually higher in certain areas and streets in Chinatown compared to other neighbourhoods, so it is a good start in helping to bring back more local visitation into the neighbourhood supporting small businesses in the area. We hope this City Council will continue to be more sympathetic and supportive of the needs of local businesses and the overall economy.”

vancouver chinatown parking area map

The highlighted area of Chinatown represents where $2.00 meter parking will apply. (City of Vancouver)

The $2 per hour recommendation by City staff is expected to lower the municipality’s overall parking revenues by $355,000 annually. The revenue shortfall will be covered by the City’s 2023 operating budget and incorporated into 2024 revenue estimates.

City staff analyzed a total of six options for reducing parking meter fees, with the $2 option identified as the preferred option and three options identified as potential alternatives.

The three alternative options include lowering fees to $1 per hour in the morning, $1 per hour between 9 am and 6 pm in select areas, or free parking after 4 pm. These options would result in estimated annual parking revenue losses of $215,000, $218,000, and $785,000, respectively.

Prior to making a recommendation for the $2.00 rate, City staff sent surveys to over 500 businesses in Chinatown seeking their input on parking changes, and subsequently about 250 completed surveys were received.

Based on the completed surveys, 58% of respondents wanted cheaper but not free parking, based on the rationale that free parking would result in less turnover. As well, businesses desired less variability in the parking meter fees from block to block and wanted to see a more consistent meter rate across Chinatown.

When asked what the biggest challenges related to parking in Chinatown are, 40% said street parking is too expensive, 23% said there is not enough parking for customers and visitors, and 15% said rates at off-street parking lots or parkades are too expensive.

Existing meter parking rates in Chinatown before the planned changes:

vancouver chinatown street parking rates 2023 daytime

Existing curbside street parking meter rates in Chinatown during daytime from 9 am to 6 pm. (City of Vancouver)

vancouver chinatown street parking rates 2023 evening

Existing curbside street parking meter rates in Chinatown during evening from 6 pm to 10 pm. (City of Vancouver)

According to respondents, there are also concerns with security, safety, and vandalism with parking on the street and in parkades, including the perception that the City-owned Chinatown Plaza Parkade is unsafe and prone to break-ins.

City staff states the data shows street parking in Chinatown is generally busiest from 11 am to 3 pm and from 6 pm to 8 pm, with Fridays and Saturdays usually being busier and Mondays and Tuesdays being quieter.

In January 2023, City Council approved City staff’s urgent relief plan for Chinatown, including about $700,000 in direct measures for Chinatown such as additional street cleaning, feces collection, graffiti removal, and garbage cans, as well as the creation of a safewalk program and a new mini-office for City Council to work from. The relief plan was rolled out several weeks ago, shortly after the approval of the 2023 operating budget.

The previous makeup of City Council debated the idea of free or lower-cost parking to support Chinatown almost exactly a year ago, but at the time it received lukewarm support from a majority of City Council, and City staff at the time suggested it would go against the municipal government’s climate action goals. On multiple occasions earlier in the pandemic, business and community groups in Chinatown repeatedly asked the previous City Council to implement free or lower-cost parking.

In the 2023 operating budget, parking revenues for the year are estimated to reach $75.6 million, including $62.5 million from on-street parking and $8.9 million from parking on Park Board property.

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