Is our downtown becoming a ghost town?

Each June Colliers International ranks cities globally on their parkingrates and with every passing year Calgary continues to challenge thepriciest downtown tabs on the planet.

It has become a cringe-worthy right of summer.

Each June Colliers International ranks cities globally on their parking rates and with every passing year Calgary continues to challenge the priciest downtown tabs on the planet.

Hardly the most auspicious way for Calgary to become renowned as a truly global metropolis.

This year’s survey ranks Cowtown — at an average of $460 per day — as the second most expensive city to park in North America, narrowly following New York’s pricey parking lead.

Worldwide, Calgary is surpassed by only 15 cities, but still manages to leave major centres like Paris, Berlin and Athens in the dust. The news comes on the heels of a narrowly defeated move earlier this week by a majority of council members to look at dropping the price of meter parking by 25 per cent.

But there are rumblings coming out of city hall that the city’s once well-intentioned downtown parking strategy has gone too far.

“I think what we had was a nice little social experiment that is starting to hurt us economically,” said Ald. Joe Connelly who wants council to revisit the strategy. “When you think about what the core of a city is for, it’s for consumption and if people aren’t coming down then it dies.”

The city’s current parking strategy is one of manufactured shortfalls.

In an effort to convince commuters to visit the core, planners have put a cap on the number of available parking stalls while the market capitalizes on the demand by jacking prices into the stratosphere.

The basic economic principle of supply and demand, of course, comes with a heavy price tag for the majority of Calgarians who still prefer to be behind the wheel.

The experiment, Connelly says, has failed with residents, businesses and seniors all telling him that the downtown core is on the cusp of becoming a ghost town.

Asked what he thought was a fair price to pay for downtown parking, Connelly barely hesitates.

“If you look at Edmonton, we should be paying about five per cent to 10 per cent more than what they’re paying,” he said.

And with our northern counterparts shelling out an average of $275 per month, Calgary has a long way to go. To get even close to that the city will need to open up significantly more parking inventory and deflate its own prices to convince private operators to compete.

And soon, says Connelly.

“The last thing we want is an empty core — we’ve got to get moving.”

 
 
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