Driving · New Westminster

A proposal for New Westminster’s street parking

If there’s one thing that really makes my head spin, it’s street parking in New Westminster.

I’m really of two minds about street parking.

On one hand, I really hate it. I think New Westminster’s residental parking permits are way too cheap at $5 per vehicle per year (for renewals — the first year is $10). Compare that with Toronto’s, where it’s currently $14.71 (plus GST) per month for the first vehicle, or 37 times more expensive than New Westminster’s, and that’s only if you don’t have any on-site parking! If you do have a garage or driveway, a parking pass costs $51.54 (plus GST) per month, nearly 130 times as expensive as New West’s! Five dollars a year for a place to store your vehicle is a huge gift from the city that’s only available to car owners, and it’s about time we change that.

On the same hand, I really hate it. It makes cycling dangerous, particularly along streets that allow parking on both sides. The Crosstown Greenway along Seventh Avenue is particularly bad for this, as it has minimal traffic calming and turns into a shitshow during rush hour because there’s only one travel lane on a street that’s about 8 metres wide. Cyclists can either cycle on the sidewalks (which gets pedestrians pissed off at them) or on the street (which gets drivers pissed off at them), and in both locations they’re likely to win a door prize.

On the other hand, street parking does mean that in theory land need not be turned into a parking spot, which could help increase housing density. Instead of being forced to build a garage, a landowner could build a laneway house. New Westminster is currently updating its Official Community Plan with the aim of increasing density in the city, and eliminating (or drastically reducing) the “put in a parking spot” requirements will help do this, and street parking will help fill the void.

So here’s my two-pronged proposal for New Westminster:

  1. Increase the fees for parking permits, and peg them to inflation. I really like Toronto’s two-tier structure, where you get charged a lower rate if you don’t have on-site parking. I also like their structure where the second car costs much more. My proposal is this: $5 per month per vehicle for the first two cars, then $15 per month per vehicle for every car after that.
  2. Eliminate parking minimums for low-density residential, which I consider everything from single-family detached houses to quadplexes. For rowhouses and townhouses, cut the parking requirements in half. For everything larger, cut parking requirements by 25% and have massive incentives for developers to promote alternate modes of transportation. I would really love to see a parking-free condo building like Calgary recently approved, but I doubt that’ll ever happen in New West. But by making street parking cheaper for those houses with no on-site parking, we can promote moving away from land for cars to land for people.

These two changes will make a lot of single-family detached house owners lose their shit. And you know what? Too bad. The single-family detached house is doomed for extinction in New Westminster, and this should be the beginning of the end of catering to this housing option. We need to do more to reduce car use in our city, and single-family houses are the largest source of cars here. If we increase the friction for car ownership, we reduce the number of car owners. If we reduce the number of car owners, we can hopefully reduce the number of cars on our streets, making them more accommodating to other forms of transportation, and making our city a nicer place in which to live.

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