The City of Edmonton will review its parking rates in the first quarter of the new year to determine if the cost of parking in the downtown should stay the same, go up, or be reduced.

"We're at the point now with the data we collect in the EPark system, we can actually look at our rates to see if they're justified," said Brian Murphy, the city's general supervisor of on-street parking.

The automated parking system collects information on how often a parking spot is used, and for how long a period of time, with the data transmitted to a server, Murphy said.

That information will be analyzed with a review completed by the end of March, he added.

"We can look at that data and decide if we need to raise or lower the rates in certain areas," said Murphy.

There are areas downtown where the parking is just not being used, and other areas that are always full.

Rates can be adjusted to encourage parking in the low-use areas which might take pressure off the heavily-used spots, he said.

"If we have an 85 per cent occupancy rate in an area and we feel it's not giving our customers the proper opportunity to park on the curb-side, then we'll start looking at the rates and then maybe we can start to adjust them to spread them out a bit," said Murphy.

Edmonton vs. Calgary

The City of Edmonton provides 2,500 parking stalls within four parkade facilities in the downtown area and another 1,700 on-street spaces.

In Calgary, the parking authority, which is run by the city, operates about 7,900 parking stalls on-street and in parkades in the downtown. The Calgary Parking Authority (CPA) announced  Wednesday it is continuing with a freeze of its rates for 2017.

At the beginning of 2016, the CPA announced a rate freeze for on- and off-street parking in light of the economic downturn.

"We're very aware that Calgarians continue to face challenges due to the economic situation," Mike Derbyshire, the CPA's general manager, said in a release issued Wednesday.

"To help offset these challenges we've extended the temporary rate increase freeze that we adopted last year in order to provide some financial relief."

"With our new EPark system, we're going to have good data and we're going to have the ability to adjust pricing accordingly." - Coun. Mike Nickel

A rate freeze isn't necessary in Edmonton, said Coun. Mike Nickel on Friday. "Calgary's downtown is very different than Edmonton's downtown, we've always been trying to attract people to the downtown core."

"What we really need to think about is what our pricing scheme is going to be, what's fair to encourage people (to come) there," Nickel said.

All the development in Edmonton's downtown, including the new arena, is bringing more people into the city's core, said Coun. Andrew Knack.

"It's only natural as your downtown continues to grow, you see more people come and enjoy it, it's going to change the parking rates," Knack said. 

While this may be a difficult change for some people used to being able to park downtown for free, it's also "the sign of a good downtown, and a strong downtown", he added.

Calgarians pay more

While Edmontonians may have been lamenting recent parking rate increases in the downtown, overall, parking rates in city-operated facilities in Calgary are higher than in city-operated facilities in Edmonton.

graphic Edmonton-Calgary parking rates

City-operated parking in downtown Calgary is more costly than similar parking in downtown Edmonton. (CBC)

The typical on-street meter parking rate in Edmonton is $3.50 per hour. In Calgary, it's $4.50 per hour.

In city parkades, the rate in Edmonton is typically $2.50 per half hour during the day with a $20 daily maximum.

In Calgary the rate is $3.25 per half hour during the day, with a $20 to $25 daily maximum.

The rates being charged in downtown Edmonton are fair, said Nickel.

"With our new EPark system we're going to have good data and we're going to have the ability to adjust pricing accordingly," he said. "Given the economic climate, no one's looking for an increase."

Any changes to parking rates in Edmonton would have to go before city councillors, Murphy said.