While Whistler has had pay parking along Main Street and in other municipal lots since 2002 the rates have been frozen at $1 per hour since the beginning. That all changed two weeks ago when rates doubled to $2 per hour.
The decision was made at the same April council meeting where the addition of pay parking to the Telus Whistler Conference Centre was approved.
Mayor Ken Melamed acknowledged that the decision was unpopular, especially in the current economic climate, and said that rates probably should have increased incrementally in the past seven years instead of doubling all at once.
"Technically the rates doubled, but technically the parking (rate) has not increased since it was implemented," he said. "As Chris Quinlan pointed out in council it made better sense to increase (property taxes) a little more each year instead of having to raise them the amounts we are now.
"Again, it's easy to look back and hindsight is 20-20, but the fact is that the rates should have gone up gradually over time but didn't. This time around council had to balance off revenues and expenditures, and one of the things that came out of our budget discussion was pay parking revenues."
Pay parking was included in the five-year financial plan as a revenue-earner for the municipality, which is facing budget shortfalls for the immediate future. That includes the day skier lots, where pay parking will be in place in three out of five lots as of June 1, and is expected to raise $2 million per year. The rate will be $8 a day during the winter season, or $2 per hour, and $12 a day during the summer, or $3 per hour.
Melamed said the new rates at municipal lots, which are expected to raise $390,000 this year, are still lower than rates in other urban areas or resorts with pay parking in place.
"Doubling wasn't seen to be out of line or unreasonable - had we done an annual cost of living increase it would have been at the same place or higher," he said.
Melamed said the municipality is aware that some people have issues with the hours pay parking is charged, or the fact that many lots - including the conference centre - limit parking to two hours. He said that government would like to hear recommendations and suggestions to make the program better.
"It's something we will have to monitor and try to be respectful and responsive to the needs of the community," he said. "The message is to let us know what we need to do to make (pay parking) work better for people."