File photo White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker said the city has no plans to ask Fraser Health or the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation to provide free parking in lots they control.

Free hospital parking a non-starter in White Rock

City considering task force to look at parking generally – Walker

While the City of Surrey is providing free street parking around Surrey Memorial Hospital – and proposing to ask Fraser Health to consider allowing free parking in its off-street lots – White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker said the city is not likely to follow Surrey’s lead.

“We’ve been talking not only about that piece but parking in general,” he said.

“There are a lot of (residential) parking places in the uptown area that are being used by construction workers and other people and that is causing concern.

“Rather than singling out a specific area, we’re thinking of forming a working group or task force to look at parking in general, to see if we can come up with a plan that will keep residents happy and keep visitors coming back to our city.”

Walker noted that off-street lots around the hospital are controlled by Fraser Health and the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation and said the city has no plans to ask for these lots to provide free parking.

Walker said he sympathizes with those who pay for parking around the hospital.

“Each of us has has had our own experience of visiting a friend or loved one in hospital, and spending countless hours paying for whatever time it looks like will be necessary,” he said. “I’d love to be able to do away with pay parking around the hospital, but I don’t think we’ve looked deeply enough into it to be able to make that commitment.”

PAH Foundation spokesperson Vicki Brydon said that while the parking lot closest to the hospital entrance is owned by Fraser Health, other nearby lots are a source of revenue for the foundation that it is not likely to relinquish.

“All of that money goes straight back into the hospital,” she said.

Meanwhile Fraser Health spokesperson Jacqueline Blackwell said in an email Monday that no request had yet been received from Surrey – or any other municipality in the region – for free parking within lots it controls.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with our municipal stakeholders should they bring their concerns to us,” she said, while noting that that money from parking fees covers operating costs to provide safe parking, such as lighting, security patrols, and repaving.

“Any additional funds are reinvested into health care programs and services,” she said.

“As hospitals are often centrally located, their parking spaces are very sought after,” she added.

There are also other advantages to a pay parking policy at hospitals, she noted.

“(It) discourages customers and employees of surrounding businesses from parking at our sites, so these stalls are available for patients and their families,” she said. “Parking rates also encourage stall rotation to ensure patients have access to parking at all times.”

Blackwell said, however, that Fraser Health appreciates that “some people may struggle to pay for parking, especially when they are dealing with long term illnesses.”

For that reason, she said, the FHA has a hardship process in place that allows it to waive fees where it can be established they pose a genuine challenge to patients and families.

“Most sites have a variety of pay options to accommodate different types of patient visits, including daily, weekly and extended stay rates as well as subsidized rates for those with financial need,” Blackwell said.

“In addition, parking vouchers or fee waivers are often made available through the relevant medical program for patients who must make frequent trips to hospitals and clinics, such as hemodialysis and chemotherapy patients.”

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