Parking Services

Parking Services oversees the administration, maintenance and parking enforcement of all City parkades and City lots. Parking Services also manages parking related matters for On-Street pay parking, Commercial Loading Zones, and Residential Parking passes.

Parking in Nanaimo

Parking is an element of every municipality’s transportation system, and now includes both vehicles and bicycles. Car or bike parking can take place on-street or off and serves a variety of users, residents, businesses, service providers and tourists. Parking space is a public asset, and it is the municipality’s responsibility to ensure that access to parking is fair and equitable while supporting the overall vision and need of the community as outlined in CityPlan.

Current City Standards include street parking (for cars and bikes) on all new roads.

Off-street parking can be located on public or private property and can be at street level or within a structured parkade. The City’s Off-Street Parking Bylaw dictates what is required of new developments.

As with all City infrastructure, it costs money to build, maintain and operate (enforce) parking. Construction of parking spaces range from $5,000 for on-street spaces to $50,000 or more for off-street parking. Structured parking could exceed $100,000 per stall (based on 2022 dollars). 


Even when cars are parked they can create a safety issue. They can impede visibility at intersections or block access to essential services such as fire hydrants. For the most part these issues are managed through the City’s Traffic and Highways Bylaw No 5000 and are enforced through Bylaw Services. If these tools aren’t adequate to manage an issue, signage or more may be used to address and issue.


Not every driver has full mobility. The City provides or requires dedicated accessible parking to ensure all residents have access to what they need. To be eligible, drivers are required to have a valid  SPARC permit displayed. This pass not only enables parking in designated stalls, but also relieves drivers of paying for parking in pay parking zones or lots.

Demand Management:

In general, the combination of on-street and off-street parking within the City creates enough parking to meet demand. This does not mean that drivers will have immediate access to the most desirable spot in every location at all times. There are areas and times (such as special events) where parking demand exceeds capacity. The City uses 85% occupancy as the threshold for labeling an area “over capacity”. Anything less than 85% capacity typically means there are 1 or more spaces available in a given area. This ensures that drivers will have reasonable access to their destination.

Ideally, Traffic and Highways Bylaw 5000 would be adequate to manage parking, however this is not always the case. High demand areas such as downtown, the Hospital, or the University are known to have high parking demand. This is actually an indicator that the area is thriving and should be viewed as a positive. That said, in order to sustain the health of the area it may be necessary to introduce additional parking regulations to ensure that an 85% operating capacity is maintained.

 Another element that is considered in areas of high demand is the type of user. Essentially there are three types of parking:

Short-term :pick-up, drop-off or loading

Medium-term: short-duration shopping, scheduled appointments, or meals

Long-term: work or travel

For multiple reasons, the City does not want drivers circling a block because they can’t find a parking space within reasonable access to their destination. At the same time, an over-abundance of parking adds cost and uses valuable space that could otherwise be used for higher-value amenities.

The City has a variety of tools to manage demand; time limits and user fees are the two most common. Pay parking is typically reserved for the highest-value parking areas as it is the most effective tool to discourage prolonged parking. 

In areas where there is a mix of uses, Business or Service and Residential as an example, the City may implement “Resident Exempt Parking”.

Last updated: March 27, 2024

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