Parking concerns hurting downtown businesses

Parking concerns hurting downtown businesses; taxpayers, and local businesses who are already struggling to survive downtown, should not be subsidizing municipal employee parking.

Our downtown is suffering, with a number of businesses leaving the core in recent months. One of the key issues that downtown businesses have identified is parking – availability, cost, enforcement. Businesses say their clients are going elsewhere because of parking concerns:

  • some customers don’t want to pay for parking and have taken their business elsewhere
  • other customers don’t mind paying for parking, but need more than the 2-hour limit to complete their visit
  • customers complain of aggressive enforcement, resulting in high tickets for being a few minutes over the metered time
  • customers say it’s hard to find parking close to shops
  • customers say it would be easier to pay for parking via debit/credit machines than having to search for pocket change.

The city has commissioned a parking study to explore these issues, and determine whether there is an adequate supply of parking. Part of that study includes a customer survey.

Currently, businesses do not have to provide on-site parking, but instead pay into a levy to build future parking. Everyone pays, even if they have on-site parking. Paid parking revenues also go into the fund.

City staff park free downtown

However, the city is missing a significant revenue stream for parking by offering all municipal employees free parking in local lots. Staff have the option of a free bus pass or free parking pass, and most choose the parking. Everyone else who works or visits downtown must pay for parking. Monthly rates range from $60-104, depending on the lot.

The lost revenue from free staff parking is worth about $185k annually.

My Take: Taxpayers, and local businesses who are already struggling to survive downtown, should not be subsidizing municipal employee parking. We need a consistent level playing field – either everyone pay for parking or it’s free for all, which would certainly address some of the parking challenges our businesses are facing. I voluntarily pay $104/month into the city’s parking fund for my parking spot.

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward
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  1. I work at City Hall and my parking spot is a 13 min walk which is about 4-5 blocks away from the downtown core. Because it is so far away I pay for closer parking. Tell me again how I’m lucky when most people have free parking at their jobs? And Marianne you get to park 2 steps from the front doors to city Hall. I would gladly pay to park in your spot. Are you willing to give it up? Didn’t think so. The parking is the only perk we get if you even want to call it that. Despite what the public thinks, we pay into our pensions, they are not free, our pay compared to private sector is lower and we don’t get anything for free at work, including a Christmas dinner. So yeah I get a free spot in a parking lot that is never full and that no one who wanted to shop in the downtown would park at anyways. Burlington’s core isn’t failing because of just parking issues, the cost of renting is outrageous for businesses, the core is small and car crowded and most people don’t want to walk a few mins to shop there. They would rather park right at the front doors of a store… Rather than support the core.

    • Besus, Thank you for your thoughtful comments and sharing your personal experience regarding parking. Let me share mine and speak to the principle that I think is at stake here. There is no such thing as free parking – when you park “free” at the mall, or at local businesses or at office parks, it is built into the price of goods you pay at those establishments. You pay those fees whether you drive there, or take transit, or walk. In this model, people who don’t drive, subsidize those who do. In the downtown model, parking and driving is user pay – and you can avoid or reduce these costs by using other modes of transportation or carpooling.
      If you work in places that don’t charge for parking, your employer has made a business decision to absorb those costs for you, typically as part of the rent they pay for the space. For city employees, the cost is born by the taxpayer, regardless of their ability to pay those taxes. We tell visitors to the downtown they must pay for parking; employees in minimum wage jobs in retail in the downtown must pay for their own parking. There must be a level playing field where everyone chooses their own mode of transportation and the costs associated with it, including the cost of parking. We encourage people to take transit, walk and cycle, but if we make driving easy and cheap, people will prefer to drive. We are not showing leadership by subsidizing parking for city employees, which encourages driving, while charging all others users in the city to park.
      As decision-makers, we must practise what we preach. That, too, is leadership. I received a parking space outside city hall as part of being a councillor. Out of principle, I voluntarily paid for that space my first two years in office, at the highest monthly fee rate. In my third year, I offered that space to visitors to City Hall. This past year, when the city repaved the lot, I gave up that space entirely so it would be available 24/7 to the public. You will note if you go by, there are only 6 signed spaces in the lot now for councillors. On the rare occasions when I need to drive downtown, I find a space in a lot, or the garage, and pay full fare myself.
      Thanks for engaging the discussion. Parking is an important issue in the downtown, and one that will be with us for a long time.

  2. I don’t feel that city staff should be provided with free parking!

    With each store closing, the longstanding closed Proteus restaurant and the Village Square debacle our downtown area becomes less attractive as a destination.

  3. I don’t think that municipal employees should have free parking in local downtown lots when everyone else has to pay. $185,000.00 is a lot of money the city could put in to other things. Not to mention that municipal employees are taking up spots paid for by the tax payers that they are not able to use because they are taken up by City employees. As I understand it, most of the downtown parking ramp on Locust north of Lakeshore Road is taken up by City Employees as well as lots to the west near Joe Brant. It should be user pay for these lots, just like employees in other areas and cities such as Hamilton where the employee pays, and not the employer! Downtown parking should be accessible to all, not just those who work for City of Burlington?

  4. I’d like to see free downtown parking – my parents live in 410 John Street which has no visitor parking so I have to park in the municipal lot and pay every time I visit them. It is over $25.00 per month and I too have been ticketed when I was 5 minutes late. I also have to pay to pick them up or drop them off because I need to escort them upstairs to their unit and can’t leave the car on the street. What a rip off! I’ve seen parking passes in many cars in the lot – how nice for those employees. I definitely don’t choose to shop downtown, I can’t afford to pay more than I already do.

  5. I would be interested to know how much revenue is generated from paid parking in Burlington. How much is the city making when they are paying out $185K?

    I am amazed that municipal employees get free parking – wow – I agree, either it is free for everyone or everyone pays, I certainly don’t expect my tax money to go towards parking for municipal employees.

    The only exceptionI would make that parking should be paid for it you choose to park in the covered parking lot on Locust Street.

  6. It is totally unfair that muncipal employees should have their parking paid for. I work for a hospital and we have to pay for our parking, even though it is a reduced rate. They are making a good wage, more than the average person in a similiar position in the private sector; I don’t think my tax dollars should subsidize their parking. $185 k could be spent by the city for beneficial services for all, not just their employees.

  7. It is shocking that city staff get free parking at taxpayers’ expense! That has to stop. Again, this indicates government waste (municipal government has absolutely no accountability, it seems). The city’s responsibility is to ensure that the businesses thrive. The free parking for city staff should be removed and instead should be provided for shoppers and citizens. It is high time the City became more fiscally responsible. Maybe then we will not have to have any tax increases. Also, shoppers may return to downtown.

  8. History is repeating its self again in the downtown core. Many years ago paid parking was hurting the local business, city staff? Introduced free parking. It worked customers came back to shop. The city staff? then decided to bring back paid parking and look where we are again. Without free parking the only business that will be downtown will be offices that push paper. We will lose that small town experience

    For every parking ticket given out on a Saturday/Friday night will be one or more persons who will not return to Burlington.

  9. i am downtown every day walking my lab. the bylaw guy lives on Brant St and Lakeshore
    and walks maybe north to Ghent.Yes he LIVES there waiting to ticket the secont the meter stops.
    He covers just slightly east and west and makes a decent living for the city. The store owners and customers are correct and should have complained sooner. Ask the owner of the mini who works at Brant and Caroline on the west hand side. I have seen at least 15 tickets given to him and he works downtown and i see him running out to put more money in the meter and woops. He gets a call at work and the 2 hours runs out and he seems to be there and ticketed.Wow incredible not even an extra 20 minutes grace and he somehow has another.
    Please note all the store closings downtown. Its sad.

  10. I am solidly against free parking for City staff ans especially for rather well paid councillors. John Froggatt

  11. Everyone should park free downtown, this is not Toronto, we should look after our downtown businesses. There should be a time limit except for specific employee lots so they do not take up the shoppers spots. Burlington is a city of malls and Big Box stores, if you want a vibrant and productive downtown, get rid of pay parking all together…. I was thinking of looking at the sporting adventure store across from City Hall, but guess I will have to go to the one on Brant at Plains, don’t have to pay there!

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