Winnipeg commuters already crying the blues over downtown parking rates should brace themselves for more hurt.
The downtown parking landscape is undergoing its biggest change in decades, as surface parking lots disappear to make way for a number of new commercial developments that include parking garages.
And since parking rates in new garages tend to be higher than those in surface lots, that means more rate hikes down the road, industry officials said Tuesday.
"I think rates will continue to climb at a steady pace," Richard Wishnowski, regional manager for Vinci Park Services Canada Inc., said. "I don't think we're going to see huge spikes. I think we're looking at something in the five to 10 per cent (a year) range."
Wishnowski was commenting after Colliers International issued its latest annual report on downtown parking rates for major North American cities, including 12 in Canada. It showed while Winnipeg motorists still enjoy some of the cheapest downtown-parking rates in the country, they're also climbing at one of the fastest paces in Canada.
Colliers said the average monthly rate for a parking stall in a covered or underground parkade in downtown Winnipeg was $159.86 in June. That was the third-lowest rate among the 12 Canadian cities surveyed, which was up one notch from a year ago. But it was also five per cent higher than a year earlier, and the fourth-biggest increase among the Canadian cities surveyed.
To add to the pain, rates have likely risen even more since June, said Wayne Pratt, managing director of Colliers' Winnipeg office. That's because two major parking facilities included in the June survey -- the 450-stall Civic Centre Parkade and the 284-stall surface parking lot immediately south of the Winnipeg Convention Centre -- have since closed. That has reduced the supply of available lots, putting upward pressure on prices.
Pratt couldn't say how much prices have risen since June. But he agreed with Wishnowski commuters are likely looking at yearly increases of five to 10 per cent for the next few years as more surface lots disappear, more higher-priced parkade stalls come onto the market and new downtown commercial developments boost the demand for parking stalls.
The Winnipeg Parking Authority said in an email there are about 32,000 off-street parking spaces in the downtown and the Exchange, about 22,500 of which are available for public use. That's up slightly from five years ago because of the recent addition of two new parkades -- the 159-stall Bedford Parkade at King Street and Bannatyne Avenue, and the 270-stall Grain Exchange Parkade on Lombard Avenue adjacent to the Grain Exchange Building. Both of those garages have more stalls than the surface lots they replaced.
The WPA said Winnipeg Square, at Portage Avenue and Main Street, has the highest monthly rates -- $255 for an unreserved stall and $315 for a reserved one. Colliers said the cheapest downtown parkade rate is $126.79.
Mayor Sam Katz and the city's downtown development agency -- CentreVenture Development Corp. -- have made no bones about wanting to reduce the number of downtown surface lots, saying they're a blight and the land can be put to better use.
But Pratt said one of the reasons Winnipeg has such low downtown rates is because it has an unusually large downtown and it has more surface lots in the area than most other cities.
Below national average but steadily rising
HERE'S how Winnipeg's downtown parking rates stack up against those in some other major Canadian cities and the percentage change from a year ago:
Average month ratePercentage change
12. Waterloo region$132.493.3
-- source: Colliers International