Nfld. & Labrador

Keep the change — cashless parking coming to St. John's this year

While some see vandalized, headless meters as an opportunity for free parking, city council sees it differently.

City plans to replace current system with pay stations and new meters by autumn

St. John's Coun. Debbie Hanlon is the transportation lead for city council. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

St. John's city council hopes to award a contract to develop a new pay-for-parking system this spring.

"By fall of this year, we will begin the installation of new pay stations and meters," says Coun. Debbie Hanlon, who is also city council's transportation lead.

One could argue the city already has cashless parking on many downtown streets and city parking lots already, but while some see vandalized, headless meters as an opportunity for free parking, city council sees it differently.

Money collected for parking covers city expenses, such as snow clearing or water treatment.

There really is no free parking.- Debbie Hanlon

"If we don't collect money from meters, the cost to the citizens is that it is coming directly out of their pockets. So there really is no free parking," said Hanlon.

RFP issued

The city has issued what it calls a negotiable request for proposals for new meters, pay stations, and services.

Hanlon said all meters and stations will be cashless during the first year of operation. After that, the city will evaluate how well it worked and then decide the best long-term approach.

As soon as we have cash in the meters, people start beating the heads off them.- Debbie Hanlon

She said meter vandalism and thefts have forced the city to try a cashless system. The new system will have an online app as well as pay stations and meters that accept debit and credit cards. The city also hopes to be able to use smart cards like as the M-cards used by Metrobus.

To park or not to park? The City of St. John's wants to make the choice easier. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

"We've had tremendous issues with vandalism, to the point where as soon as we have cash in the meters, people start beating the heads off them and causing significant losses to the taxpayer of the City of St. John's," she said.

Thefts taking a toll

There are about 1,200 meter spaces in St. John's, and the city estimates about 400 of them have no meter mechanism in operation.

The heads have been taken from some meters in Churchill Square and streets around St. John's. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

Between March 2015 and December 2017, more than 1,000 meters were damaged in more than 90 incidents of theft and vandalism. As headless meters continue to bristle the streets and parking lots of St. John's the losses keep mounting. The city estimates it lost $2.8 million in revenue between 2015 and 2018 due to meter vandalism and theft.

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