Vancouver’s New Climate Emergency Parking Program - A Prescription for a Healthy Future or Just Another Tax Grab?

In the concluding months of 2020, Vancouver City Council directed staff to consider a citywide residential parking program with a pollution charge as part of the Climate Emergency Action Plan


The city claims the purpose of the program is to encourage the purchase of cleaner vehicles, reduce air/carbon pollution, and to fund climate emergency actions.  As the city grows, they state that it will allow Vancouver to better respond to localized  parking issues.


The pollution charge would be added to non-electric vehicles beginning 2023. Residents with vehicles from 2022 or earlier would not pay the pollution charge as part of their permit fee. 

The program also includes a parking component that includes an overnight parking charge ($45 per year), with free visitor parking between the hours of 7am and 10pm, but an overnight visitor charge of $3 per night. 

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The reaction to this initiative is proving controversial as both sides bring strong arguments to the conversation.

On one hand, we have those in favour of the new program.  Many worry about climate change, and argue that changes must be enacted before it is too late.   Given that almost 40% of Vancouver’s carbon pollution comes from motor vehicles (Dr. Melissa Lam, Vancouver Sun),  the city’s target of halving emissions by 2030 will not be met without a shift to clean transportation. By encouraging the purchase of cleaner vehicles, not only will air and carbon emissions decrease but also that of consumerism.  As the pollution fee only applies to vehicles made in 2023 or newer, residents are encouraged to buy older, if not cleaner, models. Further, climate action must be well funded to be effective. If implemented, “this program would generate $60 million by 2025, paying for a quarter of Vancouver’s Climate Emergency Action Plan while reducing emissions by a significant 10 per cent” (Dr. Melissa Lem, Vancouver Sun). Lastly, the concept of higher parking fees is not new to Canadians. Other major cities like Montreal already charge higher parking and congestion fees for vehicles with dirtier engines. 


Shifting lenses, those opposed to the proposed program affirm that this is just another way to charge tax, most affecting small families living in condos and townhomes without a personal garage. Arguably, these individuals are already more “green-forward” as they live in smaller spaces which use less energy.  As the city encourages densities around hubs, many of these individuals already walk more than those living in houses, further lowering their carbon footprint.  If the city is pushing for greener vehicles, where are all the charging stations to meet it?  Regarding pollution, those opposed to this plan argue that city dwellers are not the issue.  Carbon emission is the result of those living in the greater Vancouver area, commuting usually 2+ daily while living in larger homes that require more energy. 


Which side are you on? 


I encourage you to take the time to think about this issue, take the survey, and vote!

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