Did you know the City of Vancouver is swapping out old parking meters and installing a new system at a cost of 14 million dollars? As reported in this article by CBC News the city is getting rid of stand alone parking meters which served two parking spaces and going for new parking stations on the street which will serve entire blocks.

This type of parking and paying in one pay station is already pretty standard in Europe and in South America. In fact in Chile some commercial areas in cities had parking wardens  with the parking stations. Twenty years ago you parked your car on the street and  left your stick shift car in neutral, you paid at the parking station, and the parking warden pushed and bumped the vehicles together to squeeze one more in, or take one vehicle out.

Vancouver has about 11,000 parking spaces served by meters that will be decommissioned in favour of the pay stations. That will also alleviate the vandalism, and theft from coin meters. In Vancouver parking is a big revenue item for the City, bringing in about 60 million dollars a year pre-pandemic.

Of course there are some downsides in paying at  street parking stations. The City will be able to monitor them and you could be paying a premium for event parking on the street with the use of demand pricing. There will also be no more lucky finds of arriving at a  parking meter with already paid-for time.

In this interview with CBC’s Stephen Quinn on The Early Edition ,Vancouver Transportation Director Paul Storer  (one of the most thoughtful engineers and well versed to discuss sparky issues) talk about the changes that will be occurring with the new pay station system.

Mr. Storer does mention that  75 percent of meters are already paid through the City’s parking app, which is a very high percentage for a North American city. That also begs the question~if so many vehicle parkers are already using a phone to pay, could Vancouver skip this 14 million dollar pay station investment and instead go straight to a system that is less street clutter and more revenue  like the one used in the City of Westminster, in the heart of London Great Britain.

The City of Westminster also has 11,000 parking spaces but since 2009 drivers pay for a parking space by phone, text or an app.  Parking meters and station machines were stripped from streets, and  drivers quickly adapted, with 90 percent of parking payments being processed by phone.

Scratch cards were available to be purchased for drivers that wanted to use cash.

And the municipality made a lot of revenue.

In the first year over one-third of the meters were removed in place of signage for the new system. Six million pounds (10.6 million dollars Canadian) was saved the first year with no meter theft; 1.5 million pounds  (2.6 million Canadian dollars )  are annually saved in lower maintenance costs and coin collecting.

In terms of customer satisfaction, a survey conducted in 2014 has 90 percent of users saying the system was convenient to use, with 86 percent of users saying it was very easy or easy to use.

And those parking meter enforcement officers that are called “Civil Enforcement Officers” in Westminster became “Marshalls”. Imagine~their work morphed from the negative parking ticket giving to the positive parking space finding using real-time data available through their system. It is a complete win~win.

As the official City of Westminster report states:

This is, in effect, a transformational technology. It changed the whole approach to parking management and enforcement. The Marshals continue to have full civil enforcement powers but their role is to help and inform drivers – realising a shift in customer behaviours – with far reaching
benefits.”

Even better, the technology also provided insight on parking behaviour and variability for development in the area, and informs the need or lack of need for off street parking.

Where do you think this technology was developed and trialled?

In Vancouver. The company has since relocated in Great Britain.

Here is a six year old YouTube video describing how the application was first trialled and then adopted in the City of Westminster, London.

imagesCBC,CityofWestminster

Comments

  1. As usuall Vancouver is behind many other smaller and bigger cities. Surrey had parking Stations for about 10 yrs.

  2. One of the unintended consequences of introducing this new parking meter technology in Vancouver appears as if it may affect people on bikes. That was the concern expressed recently by ‘DB’, in an email chain I was forwarded from a good friend:

    “The city is getting a new pay parking system and removing parking meters which means removing the city’s handiest and most secure (albeit unofficial) bike parking options. Other cities managed to convert parking meters to bike parking: New York City in 2013, Ottawa in 2010, and Toronto in 1984!

    Surely the “Greenest City” can do the same in 2021, especially when a pandemic has precipitated a massive boom in biking? Where are all these people going to park their bikes, when there’s already a shortage of bike parking the city?

    I emailed with Jean Swanson, and she told me that some of the meters will be converted to bike parking. Why can’t they all be converted? Why would we pay to remove (and landfill!) secure posts that are already in place? Argh.”

    This is also incredibly painful to hear in the context of the completely (and almost comically) inadequate bike racks that are permitted in new housing developments, these days most notably along the west side of Cambie Street, between 37th and 35th Aves. Sure, they check a box related to development permits and perhaps the community amenity contribution, but they are almost completely unusable by more than a single bicycle, and their placement makes even that a bit of an effort. Vancouver’s quality and quantity of bike parking hardly represents the ambition the city seems to uphold related to supporting active transportation, whereas car parking is well invested and handled with the latest of technology.

    Where is the leadership on this? Or, as DB asks, “Do you have activist friends who might be also be concerned about this who would pass this on? Or do you have other suggestions about how to affect this?”

    Perhaps city staff can address whether this new parking meter design will indeed result in a net loss of bike parking, unofficial or not…

  3. The current parking meters make great bike racks, so hopefully they will modify them so that we can continue to use them for bike parking.

  4. Totally in agreement that one of the best uses for old parking meters is to be altered as bike racks. Basically all that is required is to clip the top – “Havana style” – and substitute a new top that prevents U-locks and their bikes from being removed over the post top. That’d be much cheaper than repairing sidewalks after ripping out the whole post.

    We’ve been using the alternate pay-station system in Victoria for years.

  5. Thinking of how many times I’ve opportunistically used a parking meter as a bike rack in the absence of other options. This sounds like a positive move from a sidewalk ‘clutter’ standpoint, though I hope the City will consider this freed-up space as an opportunity to add more conventional racks, especially along major commercial thoroughfares.

  6. I’ve never used a parking meter as a bike rack – it’s an invitation to have your bike stolen. You need something that you can’t just slip the lock off of.

    I love paying by phone for parking – I can give a realistic estimate of how long I’ll take instead of the worst case scenario – after I’ve paid my phone warns me if my payment is about to expire and I can add more if necessary. Also, no more loosing coins in meters that refuse to work. And it’s nice to be able to sit in the car and pay based on the signage while my girlfriend gets out to make a dash into the store.

    I have to admit to once waiting for my girlfriend without having paid because I expected her to be very fast, and then seeing a meter reader working his way down the line of cars. I was able to whip out my phone and complete payment before he got to me…

    The thing I’m going to miss most about the parking meters is that they had the location numbers on them so they were easy to read from the driver’s seat. The signage on utility poles is usually too far away for me to make out. Perhaps I’ll need to leave a small pair of binoculars in the car…

    1. Do ya lock your bike with a hula-hoop or something? It’s virtually impossible to slip a u-locked bike of a parking meter without moving the head.

  7. It would be nice if the system supported “pay for use”. In other words, you can “end” your parking in the same way you end your EVO and are only charged for the time used. I know the app supports topping up but that’s an anti-pattern (or moeny grab).

    A couple other nice things would be to leverage these pay stations as public wi-fi spots or even info kiosks. The already have all the tech.

    If the City can use the information for demand/surge pricing, then they can make that same data available to the public (say, via the VanConnect app) to show a heatmap of where there are likely open spots, along with the current pricing. That would reduce overall circling and even result in better trip planning.

    Also, the existing posts can be outfitted with toppers to prevent u-lock slide ups. I find it funny to hear cyclists complaining about losing a feature meant for vehicles they leveraged for free for other purposes, often blocking the sidewalk and /or access to the vehicles! Such entitlement. Properly designed secure bike racks are the solution, Take out a carspace and put in “pay to use” bike lockers the City can charge for parking at too! It’s probably more profitable than cars parking; hint, hint!

    1. Your comment about self-entitlement is odd to me. The reason we sometimes use parking meters is because of the dearth of bike racks around the city. Sometimes the meters are the only option. I always park my bicycle respectively, so I don’t hinder access to vehicles or the meter.

      To me, it seems like it is motor vehicle drives who are seem entitled with about 30% of the city’s road space taken up for parking, whereas cyclists just want a little bit of space to safely park our bikes.

  8. I hope the new pay stations refuse to accept payment during peak hours when the curb lane is reserved for bus/HOV use. Of course it won’t do anything to stop the food delivery cars from stopping in front of restaurants/residences, switching on the 4-way flashers and running in to get/deliver orders, but it would cut down on the practice of people beginning to park for the day/evening 30 minutes before peak hour restrictions end.
    The other side of peak hours (vehicles remaining in HOV lanes after 3:00PM) is a much bigger problem, but I don’t see how a pay station or park by phone system could possibly determine whether or not a vehicle has overstayed its welcome.

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