Drop in city parking revenues due to pandemic is ‘staggering’, says Toronto councilor

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As the city struggles to balance the 2021 budget in the face of a worsening pandemic, councilors face a sharp drop in income for one of its main money producers: the Toronto Parking Authority (TPA).
The agency is expected to pour nearly $ 60 million this year into city coffers. But a sharp drop in demand for downtown parking means that amount has dropped to just $ 4.1 million. And the amount he intends to contribute in 2021? Zero.

These figures, however, do not shock Coun. Brad Bradford, who represents Ward 19, Beaches-East York and sits on the TPA Board of Directors.

“They’re amazing, but they’re not surprising,” Bradford said. “If… people don’t pay for parking and you do that for several months, it’s no surprise that revenues go down.

Several October reports from TPA staff – two of whom go to the city’s general government and licensing committee on Monday – indicate that the agency lost millions of dollars a month in the first months of the pandemic.

The number of people parked downtown began to increase in the summer, as the first lockdown eased. But a report warns, “recent evidence has shown a decline in transactions and revenues with the emergence of the second wave of the pandemic.”

A report presented to Monday’s meeting shows that revenues from some of TPA’s off-street lots fell more than 300% in April compared to 2019.

Parking revenues are expected to pump $ 60 million into city coffers this year. Declining demand due to the pandemic reduced that figure to $ 4.1 million. (Sruthi Ramanarayanan)

Traditionally, the TPA covers its own expenses and then transfers most of the remaining income to the city. After property taxes, which cover about 86% of the city’s $ 13.5 billion annual budget, the TPA is the third-largest contributor, according to records.

In 2021, the report warns, the city’s financial situation is even bleaker:

“TPA’s budgeted net profit for 2021 is expected to be zero,” the Oct. 19 report said, “reflecting the assumption that the pandemic will continue to impact year-round operations. ”

‘Absolutely essential’

City initiatives like CafeTO, ActiveTO and CurbTO, which were designed to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on residents and local businesses, nibbled more than 800 paid parking spaces as patios and bike paths took over. traffic lanes. But Bradford said the benefits of these initiatives far outweighed the $ 2.5 million cost of the paid parking spaces removed.

The city lost many lucrative parking spaces to the CafeTO program, which was set up so restaurants could expand their patios and allow patrons to physically get away while eating outside. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

“I think it was absolutely essential to help us get through the summer months of the pandemic, in unprecedented time,” he said.

With the city already facing a $ 1.8 billion deficit as the 2021 budget calculations approach, Bradford said he and other councilors would look for ways to make up for the hole created by falling demand for parking.

“We need to fill these gaps,” he said. “We have to think about service levels. We need to think about income tools. We need to work with the provincial and federal governments to close this gap.

But he said the average person probably won’t notice a difference in the level of service provided by the Toronto Parking Authority.

However, drivers may have to look for more places to park next year: One of the reports suggests that paid parking spaces lost due to the accelerated expansion of ActiveTO’s cycle lane could be replaced. by converting spaces of one free hour into paid parking spaces.

“TPA has identified approximately 1,660 potential paid parking spaces that fall into this category,” the report said.

One bright spot throughout the pandemic has been the Toronto BikeShare program run by TPA.

Ridership continued to increase this year, Bradford said, as people looked for other ways to get around the city.

“It has been a boon throughout the pandemic,” he said. “We have historic passenger numbers, and people are leaving. ”

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