Pollution surcharges and overnight parking permits to hit every neighbourhood in Vancouver if council approves climate-based plan
Some drivers may be paying more in Vancouver, including a steep so-called “pollution surcharge,” if recommendations outlined in a report being brought to council next week are accepted.
The report, titled "Climate Emergency Parking Program,” first recommends widening the city’s overnight parking permit program to all residential streets, in order to create a level playing field for the proposed pollution surcharge.
Right now, only about 10 per cent of city streets are regulated.
The new permit would cost $43.29 a year, before taxes, with a reduction to $5 for low-income households.
The report, from the city’s general manager of engineering services, also recommends council adopted a new overnight permit pollution surcharge, which would apply to certain 2023-and-later-model vehicles classified as moderate or high polluters.
For example, drivers of most gas-powered luxury sports cars and SUVs, the report said, would face a surcharge of $1,000 a year to park on city streets between midnight and 7 a.m.
Vehicles from the 2022 model year or older – plus those specialized for wheelchairs – would be exempt.
A $500 fee would be added for vehicles deemed "moderately polluting," including "sporty" sedans and more efficient small SUVs.
City Councillor Lisa Dominato, who said she had concerns about the proposal from the beginning, called it “regressive.”
“What I’ve heard from residents and the public is that they really feel this is a punitive measure on the part of the city and they’re really being nickel-and-dimed,” Dominato said, adding that she would oppose the changes at the meeting next week.
Councillor Adriane Carr, however, called the plan a necessary step to tackle the climate emergency.
The city's goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 50 per cent over 2007 levels, and this proposal says the parking surcharge program – a form of a carbon tax – would achieve about 7 to 14 per cent of that.
“The real point here is changing consumer behaviour,” Carr said.
“If you can afford to buy an SUV or high-end sports car that may well run you over $100,000, but certainly $80,000 and up, I think a $500 or $1,000 fee is not very much,” she said.
Carr also pointed out that the plan calls for any revenue to be spent on some element of the city’s Climate Emergency Action Plan, which could include investments in transit or more electric vehicle infrastructure.
The city report forecast a wide spread: Between $44 million and $72 million would be generated between 2022 and 2025, the report read.
The report acknowledges that support so far for the permit change and the pollution charge has been low, though 90 per cent of respondents to the plan said they were concerned about climate change.
Kris Sims, B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation – who commented on earlier versions of the proposal – called what she referred to as “grand scheme” taxes like this one a “slippery slope.”
“It’s a noble thing to say we want to fight global climate change by nuking drivers for parking on streets in Vancouver,” Sims said.
“What happens when local government decides they’re not taking in enough money? What happens when the local government decides they’re still seeing too many vehicles on the road, and they move the goal posts?”
Sims also urged caution, she said, because often initiatives like this could wind up penalizing people they “aren’t intending to hurt.”
Her suggestion for the city?
“Do better at not clogging up the streets; making sure that the arteries are nice and clear,” she said.
Dominato said she preferred incentivizing Vancouverites to make green choices, rather than penalizing those who don’t.
“Why don’t we look at more carrots instead of sticks in terms of climate response?” she asked.
If approved, the overnight parking permit expansion could be in place as soon as early 2022.