The NPA might pick up a substantial number of votes with a pledge to give motorists a reprieve on some parking fees.
The party's mayoral candidate, Kirk LaPointe, has announced that if his party wins control of city hall, it will restore free parking at meters outside the downtown core on Sundays and statutory holidays.
More importantly for the city's cultural sector, he has pledged that drivers won't have to plug meters after 8 p.m. seven days a week.
This is the type of promise that's designed to persuade NPA sympathizers to show up and vote on November 15.
Under Mayor Gregor Robertson, the city extended parking-meter hours to 10 p.m. It was one of several technocratic innovations designed to vacuum as much money as possible from drivers' wallets.
Here are a few examples:
• The city introduced the pay-by-phone approach, which means that even if the car leaves the spot, there's never extra time on the meter for the next driver.
• There is a "target occupancy" of 85 percent at parking meters to maximize revenue. That led to price hikes in many areas of the city.
• More cash was generated by placing meters in areas where they didn't exist before.
The city is also a partner in EasyPark, which operates more than 50 lots around Vancouver. And by extending enforcement of parking meters to 10 p.m., it elevated the likelihood that more people would leave their vehicles in EasyPark lots in the evening. Presto, more cash for the city.
That's because anyone attending a show starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre is going to park at the library rather than leave a car on Georgia or Hamilton streets, given the two-hour limit on meters.
EasyPark has figured out a new way to raise even more cash by imposing a special-event fee when the B.C. Lions or Whitecaps are playing. It's applied to everyone, even those who are merely visiting the library's central branch to return books.
In the past, the city has justified its parking-meter fees by claiming that it accelerates the turnover of spots. That supposedly helps local businesses. But judging by the number of retail vacancies on Robson Street, in the South Granville area, and on West Broadway in recent years, that claim rings a little hollow.
It's equally likely that drivers spend less time in shops and high-tail it to suburban malls to avoid a $35 fine from the parking enforcers.
By law, municipal governments are required to balance their budgets. The problem in our city is that the rate of property-tax increases under Vision Vancouver never matches the rate of spending increases.
Council's response has been to look for additional sources of revenue to offset rising expenditures on police services, in particular, as well as on new separated bike lanes and other greenest-city initiatives.
Higher parking fees and extending the hours of enforcement at meters have helped offset the shortfall.
In May 2011, I estimated that revenue from parking would rise 35 percent that year over the amount generated in 2008 before Vision Vancouver took control and started making changes.
In 2013, parking revenue reached $52.1 million. That's an 87 percent increase over the $27.8 million raised in 2008.
Now, LaPointe has called Vision politicians out on this.
But will he promise to increase property taxes or trim increases in the police budget to offset the cost of this move? Not likely.