CBC Nova Scotia

Hot Meters

CBC News | Last updated:Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

Parking Roulette
Parking meters represent temporary sanctuary from parking tickets... Unless your time runs out. Or you take your chances and don't bother feeding the meter at all.

Risk Management
Not all parking meters are ticketed equally. On every street, one meter is the 'hottest', collecting more tickets than its neighbours. We found the most ticketed meters in the city to give you an edge against parking fines.

The Hot Meter Map
If you park regularly at meters, you'll do well to study this map carefully. The table shows the meter numbers and ticket counts of the worst meters on each of the HRM's 20-most ticketed streets. The map shows an approximate location. But be careful... The 'maximum meter' often has high-risk neighbours. If possible, park at the other end of the block. Or walk. (Drag on map with mouse to scroll)

 

Blowers Street Meter 8A... The Red Menace
Blower Street Meter 8A is distinguished by its red helmet, signifying a 30-minute time limit. This nasty little unit loves to leave its clients in the lurch. One hundred and twenty drivers were pinched with parking tickets at Blowers 8A in the 11 months we looked at. It's the hottest meter in the city.
And don't think you're being smart if you park at 8A's smug twin, meter 8B. That's the second worst meter in the city, with 115 parking tickets during the same period.
Look for meter 8A on the south side of Blowers Street, just down from ProSkates, just up from Barrington Street.

Ticket intensity
There are so many meters in Halifax, it's impossible to squeeze all the ticket information into one image. But this map gives you a rough idea of where the most tickets are handed out. (Drag on map with mouse to scroll)


How we did this
In response to a Freedom of Information request, Halifax Regional Municipality gave CBC News a database of all the parking tickets in Halifax from January 2003 to June of 2008. That's nearly a million parking tickets of all types. To make the map we took a subset of more than 54-thousand 'expired meter' tickets from July 2007 onward. A big problem with parking ticket data is that it's messy. Sometimes instead of a meter number, there's a licence plate or a street address. We cleaned up the data as best we could, but we had to do some rounding here and there. The city's map of parking meters isn't entirely accurate either. Sometimes a two-headed meter is counted as one unit, sometimes as two. And sometimes the two meters share the same 'unique' number. We don't know what that would mean in court, but if you ever get a ticket at meter 74A on University Ave, you might ask the officer which one s/he means, because HRM records show two.

Thanks
CBC News received some technical help on this project, because data are complicated.
Fred Valance-Jones at the University of King's College did the toughest parts of the records cleaning, and much general hand-holding. David McKie of the CBC's I-Unit contributed endless enthusiasm about Computer Assisted Reporting and Daniel Rainham, Health Geographer, linked the ticket numbers with the meter locations, creating the maps you see here.
Thanks to you all.

Future Park

CBC News | Last updated:Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008

Parking Meters in Halifax
Parking meter technology dates back to 1935. Since then they've remained largely unchanged, except for the replacement of mechanical clockwork with digital timers and displays.

Halifax Regional Municipality has more than 1850 parking meters spread between downtown Halifax and Dartmouth.

All of them are coin operated.

Big Business.
Operating and maintaining parking meters is big job. Every year, employees of the Halifax Regional Municipality collect about 2.6 million dollars in coins from the meters. The meters have computers inside that track how many coins drivers pay for parking. The traffic service can download that information to double-check cash flow for fraud. If they detect consistent losses, HRM can put the meters under surveillance to see who might be breaking in.

New Technology
New Parking meter technology focuses on giving drivers new ways to pay. It bypasses the inconvenience of coins, and allows businesses to generate receipts for parking meter costs. Halifax Regional Municipality is considering three new ways to pay at parking meters.

  1. Stand-alone mini-meters (see photos)
    These devices look a little like a cross between a pager, a garage door opener, and cheddar cheese. They're wirelessly networked back to a main computer that keeps track of your account. Like the MacPass on the bridges, you have to anchor your account with a credit card. The driver sets the timer to a number of minutes, and hangs it in the passenger window. You aren't allowed to set the device for more time than the meter allows. The company charges a monthly rental fee of a few dollars to use the device.
  2. Pay by cell phone (see photos)
    Use your cell phone to tap a parking account that's linked to a credit card. You type in the number of minutes and the meter number. Then the parking enforcement officer has to check the meter's account with his own wireless device. For this to work, HRM would have to replace its handheld parking computers. The city would also have to re-lable its meters with unique codes.
  3. Smart Cards
    Pre-paid parking cards would be much like long-distance phone cards. You could buy the cards at local merchants, and recharge them at HRM service centres. Parking meters would need to be outfitted with card readers.

Timeline
Jerry Blackwood, the head of revenue operations in Halifax, says the municipality would like to launch one or more of these technologies in late Spring or Summer of 2009. He's looking for public input on which technologies have the broadest appeal to Halifax drivers.

Free Parking

CBC News | Last updated: Monday, Oct. 20, 2008

Drivers with non-Nova Scotia licence plates are immune from parking tickets.

How it works:

If you have a Nova Scotia licence plate, parking ticket justice is swift. If you don't pay a ticket, and fail to defend yourself in court, you face the full fine plus court fees. Until you pay up, Service Nova Scotia refuses to renew your driver's licence, or your licence plate stickers.

The Loophole:

It's a different story if you have an out-of-province licence plate. There's no way for the parking authorities to find you... All they have is a licence number! And with no address to send a court summons, the ticket has no legal force anyway.

The Bottom Line:

If you have a licence plate from anywhere but here, Free Parking!

The Solution:

Nova Scotia has to negotiate information-sharing deals with the other provinces and American states. That way parking authorities can link a foreign plate with a name and an address... After that, it's easy to mail out court summonses. And the partner provinces and states can agree not to issue a new driver's licence until fines are paid up.

Be Careful:

If you're thinking of parking like a diplomat from a rogue state, think again! The minute Nova Scotia inks a parking ticket reciprocity deal with your home province or state, all those dud parking tickets come back with full force. (Nova Scotia keeps tickets in its computer for two years.) So you can flout the law for now, but you run the risk of getting smacked down hard in the future.

  1. Number of tickets issued to vehicles with out-of-province plates last year*: 30,040 Total parking fines for out-of-province vehicles: $799,520
  2. Tickets paid off voluntarily: 10,011 Fines paid voluntarily: $259,295
  3. Outstanding unenforceable tickets: 19,281 Uncollected fines: $520,550
  4. Cancelled tickets: 748** Cancelled fines: $19,675

*NOTE: Tickets issued from mid-June 2007 to mid-June 2008.
**NOTE: Tickets are cancelled for many reasons: flawed tickets, defective meters etc.