VERNON - Easing up on paid parking downtown Vernon is leaving the city with a gap in revenue.
In the past year, city council approved a number of initiatives aimed at making the downtown area more customer friendly, and while it’s too early to see if they’re working, the changes are already revealing financial side-effects.
Since council implemented a new five minute grace period at parking meters, Vernon bylaw says it has given out 2,745 fewer tickets compared to the same time last year. That translates to a revenue loss so far of $39,502. If the trend continues, protective services manager Clint Kanester says the city could be looking at an $80,000 shortfall by year’s end.
That’s not to mention the hit from free parking days. The city always waives parking fees for special events like the Sunshine Festival and for promotions around Christmas time, but added three more free days this year for Shop Local Days — an projected revenue loss of $11,925.
There was also the approval of a ‘Free Till Three’ initiative offering free parking from 12-3 p.m. in advance of the Friday night market on 30 Avenue during the summer — another estimated $4,000 hit. Kanester says new signage directing people to the city’s free parking areas has also impacted parking meter revenue.
“All of these things are having what we feel to be a cumulative effect,” Kanester says.
But councillor Catherine Lord isn’t too worried, and believes the benefits outweigh the financial ramifications.
“We’ll have to take a look at it at the end of the year when we do our budget,” Lord says. “There are other areas where we’ve saved some money so I think… they’re going to balance each other out.”
Parking meter revenue and fines are a significant source of income — roughly $225,000 a year — and help pay for the many aspects of bylaw services, Lord says.
“If you take all the different things together that we’ve allowed free parking for, it is going to make quite a difference to parking revenue,” Lord says. “As far as we’re concerned we want to be a bit more customer friendly so we’re going to have to absorb that one way or another.”
She adds the figures for revenue loss are still very preliminary and says we won’t know until the end of the year exactly what the reductions are.
Coun. Scott Anderson agrees the five minute grace period is a positive move, despite the loss of revenue.
“I’m against banking too much on punitive charges like parking tickets. I think those do more in an intangible way to hurt us than a loss of revenue,” Anderson says.
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