Ottawa

City renews parking meter contract despite 'sour' history with vendor

The City of Ottawa is set to extend its contract with the company that runs its pay-and-display parking meters for another five years despite a "sour" relationship that marred the first decade of the agreement.

Dispute with Precise ParkLink revolved around meters in construction zones

Precise ParkLink first approached the city in 2007 to replace old coin-operated parking meters with 720 new pay-and-display machines. (Kate Porter/CBC)

The City of Ottawa is set to extend its contract with the company that runs its pay-and-display parking meters for another five years despite a "sour" relationship that marred the first decade of the agreement.

The chair of transportation committee, Coun. Tim Tierney, said Wednesday the deal would be good for the city and avoid reigniting disputes that could lead to a "costly legal battle."

"Although the relationship went very sour for a number of years, since 2016 the willingness of our new staff in parking services to address these differences led to the proposed resolution before us today," Tierney said.

Precise ParkLink Inc. approached the city in 2007 with a proposal to replace old coin meters with 720 new machines now found on sidewalks and in parking garages.

I don't love it. We've had a precarious relationship with this group and we're recommending a five-year extension.- Coun. Diane Deans

The city was drawn to the company's guarantee that on-street parking revenues would grow by 25 per cent, or an estimated $1.7 million a year.

But revenues never increased by that amount, and the company had to pay the city $9.7 million over the first five years of the contract to make up the difference. After that, Precise ParkLink gave the city credit worth $5.9 million toward the $12.7 million worth of parking equipment. 

Disputes began almost immediately, especially over how revenues were calculated for meters near construction zones.

5 more years 

City staff described how they reset the relationship with Precise ParkLink, then spent the past few years figuring out how to resolve disputes and come to new terms so the contract could be extended by another five years to 2026. 

"We're confident we're well past those issues," said the city's parking manager Scott Caldwell.

The agreement, which has been reviewed and approved by outside consultants, includes refurbishing the machines and takes construction into account when calculating projected revenues.

What it doesn't account for, however, is a drop in paid parking due to the pandemic, a shortfall Precise ParkLink will still be expected to make up.

"I see why you're recommending it, but I don't love it," said Coun. Diane Deans of the deal. "We've had a precarious relationship with this group and we're recommending a five-year extension."

In 2019, the City of Ottawa collected $17.1 million in parking revenues, including $8.8 million from 3,862 paid spaces on streets and $8.3 million from 2,776 spaces in parking garages and lots.

City council still needs to give its OK to the contract on Oct. 14.

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