More cup holder than meter: St. John's to make first parking change in June

Broken meters may delight some drivers, but they are costing taxpayers millions.

Cost of fixing broken meters nearly $1.4M by start of 2018

Parking meters in St. John's have become better cup holders than its intended purpose as the city deals with continuous vandalism. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

It's a welcome sight for driving in downtown St. John's: a broken meter means you can park for free.

However, hundreds of vandalized meters are costing city taxpayers millions. 

The City of St. John's says the damaged meters have cost about $1.4 million to date — both in lost revenue and to repair meters that have become better cup holders than paid parking spots.

Coun. Debbie Hanlon says there are 1,067 parking meters in the city, and more than 1,000 have been damaged by vandals at some point over the last several years.

"It's very frustrating. What's more important is that it's so tight for money at our city," Hanlon said.

"Every penny counts and now we have to go pay for something we already have and the money that these people get out of here is $10."

A parking enforcement officer monitors meters on Water Street in downtown St. John's. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

There have been more than 90 documented cases of vandalism to the city, Hanlon said.

Some people have been charged, after lobbing off the tops of the meters and taking the small amount of cash inside.

Pay by phone app

In January, the city announced 57 long- and short-term recommendations to improve the parking system, including introducing pay-by-phone parking, permits and upgraded meters. 

The first change is expected to begin in June, with the introduction of a pay-by-app system on Harbour Drive.

Other major cities use a similar system which sees users pay using their credit cards using a phone app.

The app allows people to pay more to extend their parking time.

Buyer's remorse?

In January 2014, the city replaced all of its parking meters with digital devices, at a cost of $474 a piece.

Despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars years prior, Coun. Debbie Hanlon says the city is not feeling buyer's remorse.

"We've learned, of course. But who would have thought this would have happened?" she said.

"The company we bought these off have never seen this anywhere else they've put them in."

The total parking overhaul is expected to take five years.

About the Author

Ariana Kelland

Reporter

Ariana Kelland is a reporter with the CBC Newfoundland and Labrador bureau in St. John's.