What’s ‘free parking’ really worth in Victoria?

On-street parking spot along Richardson bikeway estimated at $21,441 each, based on neighbouring land value

What’s the price of an on-street parking spot?

It isn’t free, and the answer is a lot higher than one might think.

One estimation, based on neighbouring land values, puts the cost of an on-street parking spot (measured at 167 square-feet, as according to City of Victoria parking minimums for a standard, square spot) between Foul Bay Road and Runnymede-Redfern at $21,441 (see explanation at bottom of story).

And yet, on-street parking is a right that many residents feel entitled to. The problem is, it’s a heavily subsidized use of public space based on an antiquated car-centric culture and causes all sorts of problems. One of those is the City of Victoria’s attempt to build a safe bikeway network, says Fairfield resident Lorne Daniel.

READ MORE: Victoria unveils next phase of bike lane network

The City hasn’t declared parking as an issue and in most cases, Victoria retains on-street parking in their bikeway upgrades. However, roads should be re-evaluated for moving people, not just driving and parking, Daniel said.

Currently, Victoria is being criticized for two legs of its 2020 phase of the bikeway network, Richardson and Haultain roads. Haultain is narrow and the on-street parking makes it particularly dangerous.

“The point is, there isn’t any free parking,” Daniel said. “And the [current] Richardson proposal is not an AAA [all ages and abilities] design. Really, it’s just because they’re fearful of the backlash of drivers.”

The question for Oak Bay, Daniel says, is why doesn’t McNeil have bike lanes that will link up with Richardson. Oak Bay has hundreds of commuters who bike into Victoria and McNeil has all kinds of space. Oak Bay could easily install a protected bike lane on McNeil, Daniel said, and without any loss of parking.

In the 2016 census, 16.1 per cent of commuters from South Oak Bay reported traveling by bike. That number doubled from 8.6 in the 10 years previous.

READ ALSO: Victoria cycling community raises concern over new bike lane designs

“It’s something that should be done, especially if Victoria is going to discourage drivers from OB onto Richardson,” Daniel said.

The proposal for Richardson, as has been widely reported, is to minimize the number of drivers on it by adding traffic diverters. The main diversion is to block westbound access at Foul Bay Road. Oak Bay drivers – at least a few – don’t like it and fear they’ll be trapped behind their own Tweed Curtain.

However, Richardson is a residential road and wasn’t built as a highway for Oak Bay residents to travel downtown, Daniel points out.

“I’ve had one person tell me, ‘You want me to drive on Fairfield instead and travel through three school zones,’” Daniel said. “I said, ‘Yes, or you don’t have to drive.’ There’s a lot of people in Fairfield who don’t believe our roads are here for Oak Bay residents to commute on.’”

For the record, the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition is highly concerned with the Richardson advisory bike lanes, but are not focused on the on-street parking along Richardson.

“We just don’t know enough about advisory bike lanes, or if they will work here,” said Corey Burger of GVCC. “The City of Victoria should let Humboldt advisory bike lane get built and tested before adding more.”

So how much is a parking spot? Or how about the whole road? (For those reading our print edition, visit this story online at oakbaynews.com to see our crack-shot methodology.)

Just for fun, here is rudimentary speculation based on a simple equation. The math was done using B.C. Assessment to collect the land values.

Yes, it’s a crude way to go about it with many errors. However, if the road on a city block was converted back into a residential lot, speculation suggests it would cost the same and the property might increase in value. Therefore, it works well enough as an exercise.

Parking spaces generally range in size from about 270 to 320 sq. ft. To make it easy, we’ll go with 300 sq. ft. Multiply that by the number of cars regularly parked on the street.

We took all 10 lots facing Richardson between Foul Bay Road and the intersection of Runnymede (and the alley which turns into Redfern), where westbound traffic will be minimized by the proposed Foul Bay diversion. The land value of all 10 lots is $7,981,000, divided by the estimated 62,161 square feet, is $128.39 per square foot. That number times 167 sq. ft. equals $21,441.13.

reporter@oakbaynews.com

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