A parking meter in downtown Whitehorse. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

A parking meter in downtown Whitehorse. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

Parking app pondered for Whitehorse

There could be an app for that

No change for the parking meter?

There may someday be an app for that in Whitehorse.

Technology that could change how residents pay for metered parking time and how parking enforcement happens was the focus of a Whitehorse city council and administrative roundtable discussion on May 28.

At that meeting, a study by the IBI consulting group on parking meter technology was presented showing four possibilities for the future.

“The end goal was to identify optimal technologies for Whitehorse (parking),” Peter Richards, IBI’s director of engineering, stated in the presentation.

Richards and others at IBI who were involved in the study attended the meeting virtually.

The “economy” option would incorporate an app to allow payment through a call or text in addition to continuing to accept coins into the meter. Bylaw officers would use handheld devices for ticketing. The ticket would be printed out, left on vehicles with the information uploaded into the city’s system, meaning officers would no longer be required to manually write out tickets and later add the information in. Under this option, there would also be an update to the static parking map available on the city’s website.

The economy option would be a step up from the “status quo” option which would see the city continue to use the primarily coin-operated meters and manual-ticketing system in place. New measures would be limited to simply updating the static parking map.

The other two options have been labeled as “premium” and come with higher costs. One would see smart kiosks replace the coin-operated meters on Main Street, allowing residents to pay by debit, credit card or with cash.

The downtown premium option would see the smart kiosks in place for the entire downtown.

The premium system would also feature the hand-held ticketing devices. For the downtown premium option, a license plate recognition system would be used to identify vehicles that have over-stayed the time limit or haven’t paid for parking.

An interactive online map would also be part of both premium options, replacing the current static map, and showing real-time details such as parking restrictions.

The premium options would also allow for greater data collection and analytics on parking with the smart kiosks taking information into the system.

IBI officials stressed that estimated costs for each system are high-level at this point and could change, before presenting the estimated upfront costs, annual operational costs and potential user fees.

The highest costs would be for the downtown premium option with the upfront costs estimated between $325,000 and $450,000; annual operational costs between $70,000 and $95,000 and annual user fees between $3,500 and $5,500.

It was noted user fees can be passed on to individuals or the city could pay them as part of the ongoing costs. There would be a kiosk in place for every nine parking spots.

By comparison, the lowest cost option would be to keep the status quo, which would see upfront costs between $2,000 and $5,000 (to update the map) and between $10,000 and $15,000 for annual operational costs in maintenance for the current meters.

Upfront costs for the economy option would be $7,000 to $14,000; while operational costs would be between $35,000 and $50,000 on an annual basis. User fees for that option are estimated at $9,500 to $1,400.

Finally, for the premium Main Street option, upfront costs could range from $135,000 to $190,000 with annual operational costs from $60,000 to $85,000 and annual user fees between $7,500 to $11,500. There would be 16 kiosks on the street with two per block.

Coun. Steve Roddick said based on the study and in the long-term interests of the city, he would like to see the city move toward the premium downtown option. He argued the city’s parking reserve is in place and could provide the funding needed.

Meanwhile, Coun. Samson Hartland emphasized the importance of making sure residents know the changes are proposed as a way of improving downtown parking for residents.

Doug Spencer, the city’s manager of bylaw services, agreed, noting the efforts are being made “to enhance the user experience”, by providing more options to pay for parking and make parking easier in the downtown.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Whitehorse city council

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