Saint John phasing out parking meters with expansion of new 'pay by plate' system

The Saint John Parking Commission is expanding its new paperless, on-street parking system in the uptown, with the eventual goal of doing away with its remaining antiquated parking meters.

Parking commission buying 11 more machines that require licence plate numbers instead of paper slips for dash

The Saint John Parking Commission is expanding the new paperless 'pay by plate' system with the addition of 11 new machines. (CBC)

The Saint John Parking Commission is expanding its new paperless, on-street parking system in the city's uptown.

It's the next stage of the commission's plan to do away with its remaining antiquated parking meters.

Under the latest technology called "pay by plate," drivers key in their licence plate numbers when they pay for parking, and that data is uploaded to the internet. 

Enforcement officers, equipped with hand-held scanners, point at car licence plates as they walk past to determine if the time has expired.

It's a step up from the city's standard pay-and-display parking, which prints off paper slips for the car dash. Those machines will "be cascaded down" to the lower-traffic area that still have coin-operated parking meters in place.

"What comes out of the bottom of the cascading effect will be the mechanical, traditional-style meters," said Ian MacKinnon, CEO of the parking commission and Saint John Transit.

"We still have a number of those that I see disappearing."

Ian MacKinnon, CEO of the parking commission, says a 'pay by plate' parking system will create efficiencies. (CBC)
The parking commission spends upwards of $35,000 a year on pay-and-display paper.

It tried out six machines for the St. Joseph's Hospital area and got approval from council Tuesday night to buy 11 more for the high-traffic areas of the city.

Other than memorizing their licence plates, drivers shouldn't notice any difference with the new machines.

"It's our goal to make sure there are many payment card options out there," MacKinnon said Wednesday in an interview with Information Morning Saint John.

"They will always be able to pay with cash as well."

Saint John Transit bought 12 new buses with the help of municipal, provincial and federal infrastructure funding. (CBC)

New buses

The City of Saint John also updated its bus lines, adding 12 new buses to the fleet.

Google Transit went live last month as well, meaning commuters can now click the bus icon on Google Maps to find the best routes to their destinations.

MacKinnon said ridership in the city has been consistent, but it's dropping off on the Comex routes to suburban areas and its high school service, where more students are boarding yellow school buses.

Ian MacKinnon is the CEO of the Saint John Transit and Parking Commission. 11:01

The next big update will move toward improved service on its busier runs to the uptown, hospital and university, and away from its "less productive routes," said MacKinnon.

"The longer routes, the more expensive routes, the low ridership routes, we'll look at folding some of those into the main city area," he said.

"We have a little service everywhere, not a lot of service in any one space, so I think those days are gone. Saint John is large, and it's very challenging to serve all the remote pockets."

Ridership on Saint John Transit's system is about 2.1 million passengers a year.

With files from Information Morning Saint John