Calgary Parking Authority raising monthly rates at downtown lots for 1st time in years

For the first time in years, the city-owned Calgary Parking Authority is raising its monthly rates at multiple downtown lots.

Prices up at some lots, way down at another, leaving some drivers wondering what gives

The Centennial Parkade on Ninth Avenue in downtown Calgary is just one of many parkades and surface lots in the area. (Google Maps/Screenshot)

For the first time in years, the city-owned Calgary Parking Authority is raising its monthly rates at multiple downtown lots.

Faced with a $50 increase in his monthly parking fee, Patrick Saunderson wondered: Why now?

"Downtown has many empty office buildings," he said.

"So, I was expecting to see a rate decrease, if anything — not an increase."

The question is likely on the minds of a lot of other Calgarians who park in the same area and have noticed their fees going up at a time when the downtown area, as a whole, is still recovering from the recession.

Saunderson said the private parking lot he uses pegs its rate to match that of the nearby Centennial Parkade, operated by the CPA.

The CPA plans to raise the monthly rate at Centennial by 10 per cent as of May 1, so the rate at Saunderson's parkade is going up, too. He'll soon pay $550 for a reserved spot, instead of $500.

"They said it was due to market conditions," he said. "And I was not pleased with that."

Three up, one down — way down

The CPA typically adjusts rates at each of its parking facilities individually — as do its private competitors.

But in 2016 and 2017, the city-owned organization ruled out any rate hikes, in the wake of the recession that struck downtown Calgary particularly hard.

"We froze our rates and made decreases where possible in response to what was happening in the economy," CPA spokesperson Adrian Mrdeza said.

In 2018, the rate at the Centennial Parkade edged up by 3.5 per cent while the rates at another 11 downtown lots operated by the CPA remained unchanged.

In 2019, rates are going up at a handful of lots, all in the same vicinity.

The Centennial Parkade will see the largest increase, with non-reserved stalls jumping to $485 per month, up $45 from the year before.

Two blocks to the west, the CPA's Lot 66 — a surface parking lot — is set to increase its monthly rate by $20. That will bring the fee to $300 per month. (The same as it was back in 2016.)

And four blocks to the north, the McDougall Parkade's rate is also going up by $20, to $400 per month.

Elsewhere, however, rates are staying the same or decreasing — and, in one case, falling sharply.

Over at the City Centre Parkade — the largest downtown lot operated by the parking authority, with 1,530 stalls — the monthly rate is falling by $110, down to $300.

That's a 27 per cent decrease.

So, what gives? Why the hikes at some lots and then such a big decline at another?

Competition and demand

Reachel Knight, the CPA's business strategy co-ordinator, said the price changes are all about competition and consumer demand.

"With a specific facility, we look at the utilization and the comparable rates within that area," she said. "And then we would determine if a rate increase or decrease is required."

Overall, the average price for a non-reserved parking space across a dozen CPA lots downtown has fallen to about $370 this year, down from $413 in 2015.

But the CPA lots account for only about 15 per cent of the off-street parking in downtown Calgary, and it's tough to say exactly what's happening across all the private lots, which account for the other 85 per cent.

In the past, some international real estate firms published parking surveys that compared private-lot rates in cities across the continent, but they've since stopped putting out such reports publicly.

One of those firms, Colliers International, told CBC News this week it couldn't provide similar information that is more up to date.

But the CPA says it monitors parking prices closely and keeps its own rates in line with competitors, and a quick check of published rates confirms they tend to be in the same ballpark.

The CPA's Lot 888 near Chinatown, for example, charges $325 per month for surface parking, while two nearby lots run by Impark charge $325 and $355.

Convenience 'worth the cost' — for now

For Saunderson, the increase at his own private lot — spurred by the increase at the nearby CPA lot — is annoying but not quite large enough to prompt him to stop parking there.

"There's always cheaper options, but I like the opportunity to park inside the building during the cold weather," he said.

Since he splits the parking cost with another person, the $550 fee works out to $275 each. Compared to monthly transit passes, which cost $106 each, he says it still makes sense for them to drive and pay for parking.

"The convenience and time saved by being in the building makes it worth the cost," Saunderson said.

If rates rise again, however, he may reconsider.

"Every $50 increase makes it less likely that it makes sense," he said. "And the bus is a pleasure to use, so we may switch back to that, if this stays in effect."

With files from Dave Will


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