All remaining traditional coin-based parking meters that regulate pay parking in curbside areas within Vancouver will be replaced over the next three years with new smart and connected meter equipment.
The municipal government says these existing unconnected meters, totalling over 11,000, are prone to vandalism and theft, specifically from individuals who jam the coin slot so that when people try to park, their coins in the meter will not fully drop down.
This is costly to both drivers and the city, in terms of the lost revenue from the coins being fished out by thieves, the downtime of the meters, and the maintenance required to fix vandalized meters.
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The new meter equipment will be mostly paid stations, typically covering a stretch of curbside parking over a city block. They will also offer new options of payment, such as credit cards. Coins and the PayByPhone app method will still be accepted.
In an email to Daily Hive Urbanized, Alina Chen, the City of Vancouver’s manager of parking management, states “this is about improving customer experience.”
“These machines are less vulnerable to vandalism, which means fewer will be down at any time, leading to less parking headaches for customers,” she said, adding that there will also be fewer machines to fix. “It’s good dollars and cents for the City.”
Additionally, an added feature of the new smart equipment is they will collect accurate parking data on usage and trends. This will allow the city to make better policies and set appropriate rates based on demand or lack of demand.
She says the city is targeting to have the new smart and connected meter equipment fully installed by the end of 2023. The $14.4 million project cost is funded by the capital plan.
The initial focus of the replacement work will be within the Metro Core, which is the area framed by Arbutus Street to the west, 16th Avenue to the south, Clark Street to the east, and covering the entirety of the downtown peninsula. This area generally sees the highest level of vandalism.
Across the city, about 30% of the curbside pay parking already uses smart and connected parking equipment, such as in the West End, Olympic Village, and parts of Yaletown.
When asked whether the municipal government would consider adding Google Maps’ new in-app pay parking feature as an option, supplementing PayByPhone, Chen said, “The City is always looking at improvements that we can make to our system. To ensure the best value for Vancouver residents, new services provided to the City are almost always procured through a public competitive process.”
Although pay parking is used as a transportation demand management tool, it has also grown into a significant source of revenue for the municipal government. Annual pay parking revenues have gone up from $40 million in 2011 to approximately $75 million in 2019.
Meter-based curbside paid parking is mostly found in commercial districts and select residential areas. The city is also in the process of planning mandatory parking permits for all residential streets across Vancouver, which could begin as early as late 2021 if it receives final approval from the city council this summer. Public consultation is currently being conducted on the mandatory parking permits.