Parking pay stations are on the way out in Winnipeg

The Winnipeg Parking Authority plans to remove a quarter of the city's parking pay stations this year as part of a long-term plan to replace most of the city's physical parking infrastructure with electronic forms of payment.

Parking authority says numbers will be reduced this year; long-term plan calls for most to go

Winnipeg plans to phase out parking pay stations in favour of apps in the long term. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The Winnipeg Parking Authority plans to remove a quarter of the city's parking pay stations this year as part of a long-term plan to replace most of the city's physical parking infrastructure with electronic forms of payment.

The parking authority intends to remove 144 of the city's 537 pay stations in 2018, policy analyst Colin Stewart told reporters Tuesday at city hall.

The city has more pay stations than it needs and most of machines are nearing the end of their useful lives, and the move will save the parking authority about $300,000 a year in maintenance and operating costs, Stewart said.

The city installed one pay station for every eight parking spaces in 2006, while the industry standard is one station for every to 12 to 20 spaces, he said.

"It was something new for people, so we wanted to make it as easy as possible. As time has gone on, we realized folks don't need that much density, so we've begun to reduce that number," he said.

"As well, emerging technologies — when we first put these in, there was no way you could pay by phone."

Earlier in the day, Winnipeg chief administrative officer Doug McNeil told city council's executive policy committee that the day will come when there are no more physical pay stations.

Stewart said that's not quite the case. There will always be some pay stations that accept coins or credit cards on Winnipeg's streets, he said.

The problem facing Winnipeg and other cities, including Toronto, is how to replace the existing machines, which are capable of functioning in temperatures as cold as -37 C, with newer pay stations.

Most of the replacement models on the market have touch screens that would not function well in a Winnipeg winter without a source of heat, Stewart said.

Winnipeg has three to five years to find a new model of machine to replace the existing pay stations, he said. In the meantime, the parking authority will continue to remove machines as more motorists use a pay-by-phone option or web-based parking apps.

Right now, only 17 per cent of parking payments are conducted through electronic means. Credit-card payments account for 31 per cent of parking payments, while 51 per cent of motorists use cash, Winnipeg communications director Felicia Wiltshire said.

Mayor Brian Bowman said he is concerned the disappearance of pay stations would result in some people not being able to pay to park, because not all drivers possess smartphones.

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