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First-car exemption sought in compromise on Calgary residential parking permits

A first-car exemption is being sought by a Calgary city council to counter public backlash over the city’s changes to the residential parking permit program.

Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot is taking the lead on a notice of motion signed by nine other councillors that would ask for no charge for the first car linked to an address where a residential parking permit is required.

The proposed change would be in place for when the new fees are introduced on Aug. 1, 2023. He’s hoping to have the motion heard at the June 20 regular meeting of council as urgent business.

Coun. Chabot said that many Calgary residents have had street parking impacted by a use in the area that they had no control over.  Chabot is referring to high-intensity areas – like hospitals or commercial areas – where there is vehicular spillover into neighbourhoods.

“It was created by something that was outside of their control, and in many instances as a result of a council decision,” Chabot said.

“So, now to impose a cost to them for something that they’ve already been burdened by seems like a double slap in the face. That’s why we’re getting a lot of pushback.”

Last fall, changes were proposed during the four-year budget that would apply a charge to homeowners for residential parking permits.

The goal was to generate enough revenue to offset the cost of enforcement and the application of the program.

Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott said he believes the challenge is that the parking rules favour a particular class of Calgarian.

“That is an immensely challenging space to be in,” he said.

“To expect that it is only the people who are living in a home that has a door that faces the street will be forgiven. It’s missing a whole class of Calgarians that are honestly already looking down at paying more for street parking anyway.”

Walcott helped usher in changes that allowed buildings above four-storeys to acquire a market parking permit instead of being subject to the whims of the private parking market. He was hoping for the program to be rolled out so they could collect data and make adjustments from there.

Budget impact

Chabot said that the budgetary impact is relatively small. At an estimated $1.6 million annually to administer and enforce the program, he said it would be less than .1 per cent on the millrate for Calgarians.

“I guess the question is, is it worthwhile to do this now. Can we not consider whether this is the right approach on a go-forward basis?” Chabot asked.

“At least for one spot for some of those folks who are already struggling with making ends meet.”

Chabot also said that with a robust reserve amount for the Calgary Parking Authority (now absorbed into City of Calgary operations), it seems like it wouldn’t take much to cover the parking costs. At least for now.

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said she’s also heard the frustration from residents.

She did say that residents do have options. They could eliminate the residential permit zone in their area, or it could convert to an hourly parking zone administered through Park Plus.

Still, Coun. Penner said she’d be happy to support a delayed rollout.

“I think it’s actually an important conversation to have and if that’s what it’s about, the cost of parking, the cost of free parking and where and when people should have permitted parking zones, then we can have that conversation,” she said.

Chabot’s motion also asks administration to come back with an update on permit uptake, budget implications and a proposed future fee schedule. That could support the transition to a full user pay for the program, the motion reads.