Coalition blasts TransLink's 35-per-cent parking tax
Published Thursday, December 8, 2011 6:18PM PST
Vancouver motorists are being forced to pay more than 35 per cent tax for the right to park their cars – and there's a growing movement to have that tax turfed.
Maple Ridge resident Jugana Bikic was recently shocked to discover how much a night of parking costs in downtown Vancouver once you add the parking tax.
"I was surprised to find out that many lots in Vancouver charge the 21 per cent parking tax. In addition to that we are being charged 12 per cent HST on top of the 21 per cent," she said.
TransLink's parking tax, which singles out drivers to help fund transit infrastructure projects, is described by some as one of the biggest tax grabs in North America.
The tax started as the seven per cent PST, which the province relabeled a "transit tax" and turned over to TransLink in 1999 to fund transit projects.
TransLink then jacked up the tax another 14 per cent – the maximum allowed – in January 2010. The five per cent GST was added on top.
And then, six months later, the HST added another seven per cent to the already ballooning rate.
If you pay $10 dollars for parking, the 21 per cent transit tax raises the bill to $12.10. If you add HST you're now paying $13.55 – that's a tax rate of 35.5 per cent.
That tax applies to all off-street, paid parking in the metro region, with most of the parkades and outdoor lots being in downtown Vancouver.
The transit tax has spawned a grassroots group called the Drive out the Tax Coalition.
The coalition said last year's increase means consumers are "paying the highest parking taxes in North America," adding that the hike equals a 200 per cent climb in what you have to pay.
"I mean it's just an astronomical number for the industry to absorb -- but at the end of the day it's the consumers that are paying it," member Charles Gauthier said.
But TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie claims the high taxes are actually driving parking rates down.
"The fewer people actually driving into downtown Vancouver the more available capacity you have in those parkades, which keeps the prices lower. It's simply a matter of supply and demand," he said.
Hardie points to Canada's big city downtown parking rates as proof.
Calgary's are the highest at an average of $472.50 a month. Vancouver's median parking rates are fourth highest at $287.98 monthly. Toronto's average is $332.38, while Montreal's is $296.00.
"In a strange sort of way this tax actually helps them save money," Hardie said.
TransLink makes $58 million a year from the parking taxes and critics say it could make a lot more by forcing all drivers to pay a vehicle levy instead.
"Well it's equitable. Everyone that drives a vehicle in greater Vancouver would pay it," Gauthier said. "It could be structured in such a way if you're driving an SUV you pay a much higher fee."
TransLink actually proposed a vehicle levy in 2000, but both the public and the NDP government of the day opposed it.
B.C.'s finance department says when the HST is withdrawn parking taxes will "only" be subject to the GST – meaning your parking bill should drop by seven per cent.
Watch CTV News for a full report from Lynda Steele...