EDITORIAL: Rise in parking rates could hurt city

Local motorists will be digging a little deeper to visit downtown

Local motorists will be digging a little deeper to visit downtown thanks to the city’s decision to double parking fees.

Vernon’s 2013 budget calls for meter rates to increase to $1 an hour (currently they are 50 cents an hour).

In the big scheme of things, a couple extra quarters likely won’t break the bank for many. And an argument can be made for the increase because rates haven’t changed in 10 years.

Monthly lot fees will also be going up anywhere from an extra $10 to $44.

But when you compare Vernon’s parking rates to other cities, particularly the larger centres, we’ve got it pretty good.

The Canadian national average for monthly parking is $241 (according to a Colliers International survey), with Calgary nearly double that at $456. Those numbers definitely add more fuel to the argument to ditch the car for a bus pass.

While Vernon is cheap compared to others, the proposed new rate will surpass its larger neighbour Kelowna – which only charges 50 cents an hour for on-street parking (City of Kelowna website).

A major concern around the local increase is that customers may be driven out of the downtown core. Why pay to park and shop downtown when you can go to the mall, or a big box store and park for free?

If that happens, it will in turn hurt small businesses, so it’s no wonder the Downtown Vernon Association is fighting the increases.

If downtown merchants lose enough business, they could be forced to close their doors – which will in turn hurt the entire city.

So while the combined rate increases will add nearly $600,000 to city coffers, the effect could prove to be much more costly to the community.