The city of Saint John is looking into charging a little extra for parking to help pay for its buses.

Saint John common council has tasked the transit and parking commissioners to look into a parking surcharge to fund a renewal of the transit fleet. 

NB-Tom McGraw

Tom McGraw, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1182, says the surcharge is badly needed to upgrade the bus fleet. (CBC)

The local transit union says the money is badly needed.

"We've got a chronic underfunding problem here," said Tom McGraw, president of Local 1182 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

McGraw said he thinks the city's bus budget has been neglected long enough and likes the idea of using a parking fee to renew the fleet.

"Behind those whitewash walls over there in the 'Garage Mahal' we are digging a big hole. Our average age of our fleet is approaching twelve years and it's just too old. The maintenance costs are starting to increase too rapidly," McGraw said.

NB-Paulette Hicks

Paulette Hicks, president of the Saint John Hotel Association and general manager of Delta Brunswick Hotel, says a similar surcharge has almost doubled the local tourism budget. (CBC)

The surcharge is similar to a three-per-cent surcharge city hotels have used since 2007 to help promote tourism.

"It has been significant for us," said Paulette Hicks, president of the Saint John Hotel Association.

"We're collecting around $700 thousand right now. That was just last year's record. The budget currently for the city is a million dollars, so we have been able to top that up to $1.7 million," Hicks said.

The city would like both public and private parking lots to collect the surcharge.

NB-Saint John bus

Saint John common council has tasked the transit and parking commissioners to look into a parking surcharge to fund a renewal of the transit fleet. (CBC)

Reaction to the idea was mixed among those paying for parking Wednesday.

"I'd love to see it happen," said Don Dingwell.

Nancy Martin said she's taxed and charged enough.

"When you're a senior on a pension, hell, pensions don't go up like the taxes do," she said.

There's no word on the amount of the surcharge or when the surcharge could be implemented.

But the councillor who proposed it said it would have to be enough to benefit the fleet, but not so high as to scare off motorists.