Calgary may be one of the more affordable cities in Canada, but it’s the most expensive for parking.
An analysis by commercial real estate services firm JLL has found that Calgary has the most expensive monthly parking rate in Canada, and the third most expensive in all of North America.
According to JLL, the average monthly cost of a third-party parking stall in downtown Calgary is $366 (or US$275), ahead of Toronto, where the average cost is $347 (US$260), and Vancouver, where it costs an average of $300 a month (US$225). The only cities in North America with downtown monthly parking more expensive than Calgary are San Francisco (US$340) and New York (US$570).
The most significant factor behind Calgary’s high parking costs is a mismatch of supply and demand, says JLL vice president Mason Lam. In 2022, there was an average of 143,000 cars and motorcycles traveling daily into downtown Calgary between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. An average of around 71,000 people took public transit, while 16,000 walked and another 6,000 biked.
While the vast majority of people commuting into the downtown core of Calgary come by car, there are limited parking spots available. According to JLL, there’s just 31,000 third-party parking stalls in the downtown core.
“There just isn’t enough supply in Calgary,” Lam said in an interview with Yahoo Finance Canada.
“You’re basically short 100,000 parking stalls.”
The high price of parking comes despite the fact that Calgary’s downtown core has struggled since the 2015 oil price crash. Calgary has the highest office vacancy rate in the country as of the fourth quarter of 2022, according to CBRE, sitting at 30 per cent. Toronto’s vacancy rate was 16.2 per cent in the fourth quarter, while Vancouver’s was 7.8 per cent. Calgary also has some of the lowest office rents in the country. The average office rent in Calgary is $17.85 per square foot, compared to Toronto’s average of $29.24 per square foot, and Vancouver’s rate of $40.74 per square foot.
While office vacancy rates remain high, Lam said there has been a marked return to offices in Calgary that’s also helping fuel higher parking prices. He also said that the higher office vacancy rate means there’s even less motivation for landlords to decrease their parking rate.
“Landlords were losing out on rent, but parking was a way to help offset some of those losses,” he said.
Still, Lam says the easiest way to lower Calgary’s parking prices would be to increase the amount of parking stalls in the downtown core.
“If you increase the supply, prices will come down,” he said, adding that densification of the downtown area and increased public transit into the core would also help over the long-term.
“Calgary still very much has a car culture. Everybody’s used to getting around and getting places in cars due in large part (because) we don’t have the necessary public infrastructure to support another way of living.”
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.