They say the only certainties in life are death and taxes, but, in Whistler, you can add a third: pay parking.
In news that is sure to frustrate local residents already contending with ballooning costs on a number of fronts, resort officials voted unanimously on Jan. 24 to to raise parking rates in several locations across Whistler.
Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) staff said the new rates should help tackle congestion by increasing parking turnover, encouraging more people to use public transportation, and providing a source of non- tax revenue to the municipality.
“We want to incentivize sustainable transportation options, to provide available parking, so we’re not having people circling for parking,” said RMOW manager of protective services Lindsay DeBou in a presentation to council.
Starting April 3, hourly rates will increase from $2 to $2.50 on Sundial Crescent, Blackcomb Way, Village Green, at the visitors’ loop, municipal hall, the library, and in both the underground and surface lots at the conference centre. The evening rates for the underground conference centre lot and at the library will rise from $5 to $6.25, while the daily rate is set to increase there from $20 to $25. The monthly rate for the conference centre’s underground Level 4 lot is going up, too, from $70 to $88.
Day Lots 4 and 5 could also see the introduction of year-round pay parking, with council directing staff to propose a resolution to the municipal Day Lot Operating Committee endorsing the move. If successful, council would direct staff to propose a further recommendation endorsing a $25 monthly pass for the two lots, lower than the existing peak-season rate of $36 a month, which works out to $300 a year, compared to the current rate of $252 for seven months of the year.
Parking in lots 4 and 5 is currently free 150 days a year in the off-season, a measure that has long been positioned as a way to help locals keep their costs down in one of the most expensive resort towns in the country.
“I think it’s brutal. Everything’s getting too expensive,” said Ryan O’Driscoll, a Squamish resident who often travels to Whistler for work. “You shouldn’t have to pay for parking if you’re just stopping in the village to get something or going to the lake. It should be free.”
Councillor Jen Ford welcomed the increase as a way to free up more parking spots, especially in high-congestion areas such as the Benchlands or at local parks, where, during peak periods, it’s not unusual for parked cars to spill out onto adjacent residential streets.
“This isn’t a shot at any individual to say they shouldn’t be allowed to drive a car or that it should cost them more to drive a car. It’s about demand management. It’s about turnover of parking spots,” she said.
“I’ve had lots of positive feedback from people in the community who’ve said, ‘I can actually find a spot to park on Blackcomb Way when I want to park there; I can find a spot when they go to the parks.’ And it’s a pain in the neck to have to pay for parking, but it’s a fact of life, and it gets people to move their cars.”
Mayor Jack Crompton also welcomed the changes, citing the benefits paid parking brings to the RMOW to fund services tourists use and to help them keep taxes down.
“Visitor-paid parking is one of the few ways visitors from outside Whistler contribute to the municipal and community services they use,” he said. “Visitor parking grows our transit system, invests in our Big Moves Strategy, and ... even keeps municipal taxes lower than they would be otherwise.”
The RMOW proposed an 8.4-per-cent increase in property taxes for 2023, which is in line with other municipalities of similar size.
“The money generated by paid parking in Whistler goes right back into growing our transportation services for Whistler workers and residents. I think visitors from outside of Whistler helping fund transportation initiatives like transit and biking for Whistler workers makes a lot of sense,” Crompton added.
The rate changes are estimated to create $400,000 in additional revenue and another $267,000 if the proposed changes to the day lots are implemented, for a combined annual increase of $667,000.
Pay parking has long been a prickly issue in Whistler. The introduction of pay parking to four Whistler parks last summer was met with swift and fierce opposition from residents, with a petition against the pilot project garnering 1,400 signatures in just two days. While there were other factors at play, the introduction of pay parking to the day lots is often cited as the main reason Whistler’s entire mayor and council were ousted from office in the 2011 election, still the only time in resort history that has happened.