By: Nancy La, Staff Writer
The City of Vancouver is planning on implementing additional parking barriers as part of its Climate Emergency Parking Program. The plan includes a “pollution charge” of $500 (for “moderately polluting” vehicles, like gas-powered sedans) or $1,000 (for “high-polluting vehicles, like gas-powered sports cars and SUVs) and introduces annual parking permits for residents. The implementation of financial barriers to road accessibility and parking is not a fair solution to combatting climate change, nor is it a solution that tackles the root causes of the global warming crisis such as corporations and their industrial emissions.
Instead of going for bigger, more effective strategies against large corporations, the City is leaving the burden of fighting climate change on small consumers such as renters and low-income households. This makes the new parking plan an ineffective solution and will also worsen Vancouver’s affordability.
Parking fees are a high source of revenue for the City, along with property taxes and development license fees. What sets the three apart is that, for the latter two, the primary targets are people who can afford to pay the price without much grief, such as land developers. If the plan to implement street parking fees comes into effect, residents will have to pay for $45 annual passes to park where they live. The people who will be affected most are renters and/or low-income families who live in places where there is no parking included. I was a long-time renter in East Vancouver. From my experience, there is no other way to park your car but on the streets since the owner occupies the garage.
The parking plan also suggests an additional “pollution charge” on new gas models. Instead of placing the burden on companies that produce these gas models or oil corporations, the City is punishing its residents and small consumers for not buying an electric car. Putting aside the affordability question of electric cars versus gas-powered cars, there is a glaring problem with this parking plan: people who have to park on the streets will not have access to a charging station; therefore, they will not be able to choose an electric car even if they want to. This punitive approach towards small consumers as an effort to tackle climate change is logically flawed and not effective in fighting the climate crisis.
The City promises to use the increased revenues from permit fees to fund road infrastructures such as sidewalk renovations and the building of more electric vehicle charging stations in major commercial areas. These new additions are nice to have, but they do not hold major polluters accountable. Take industrial manufacturers, for instance: BC’s wood manufacturers are responsible for the vast majority of particulate emissions (air pollution), so instead of financially punishing residents for parking and not owning an electric car, the City should shift their focus to the companies that can afford to pay the fees.
Another drawback of the climate emergency parking plan is the additional administrative involvement — from fee collectors to more parking patrol — that will also cost taxpayers and residents. By reinforcing the idea that people have to financially suffer to fight climate change, the City is further alienating its residents from choosing greener ways of living. If Vancouver is truly willing to fight the climate crisis, the City needs to stay away from small consumers and residents. Instead, it should start making industrial factories, such as cement producers and the forest industry, think twice about polluting our environment. Stricter implementation of the carbon tax and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies would be good starting points to combat climate change with a significant impact.
The City’s increase in revenue from the carbon tax can be used as an incentive for consumers to move towards electrical or greener sources of energy. Using financial incentives will make residents much more likely to approach the climate crisis in a positive light, taking away a hurdle in Vancouver’s effort to be the greenest city.
The plan is still in the stages of debating and drafting, and the City is putting out a survey for the public to voice their concerns. If you would like to get involved, you can contact city councillors on the Vancouver city council website.