More parking payment options coming to Toronto streets

The Toronto Parking Authority is rolling out new pay-by-plate machines while launching a 'Mobile Only Zone' pilot program. Mark McAllister has more on why spending money on one program while trying to save on another is raising questions.

Decades after the old pay-and-display machines for parking on Toronto streets made their debut and eight years since the launch of the Green P app, more changes are in the works for drivers.

Touch screens and new pay-by-plate parking meters which don’t require a ticket to display are being touted as more “user friendly” while a new pilot program introduces cashless transactions.

But should the Parking Authority be putting the brakes on some of the programs being considered?

“It’s all about providing the customer with choices and speed as they’re able to make payments with tap, debit, credit, or using a QR code,” said Jeffrey Dea, the vice-president of business development with Toronto Parking Authority, who noted the current parking machines are nearing the end of their life.

“They’ve been out on the street for about 20 years now and so we know we need to replace them and we’re introducing state-of-the-art technology,” he said.

Last September city council approved a one-year pilot program which will see drivers only pay using the Green P app on their phones. A staff report noted use of the app grew from 49 per cent when it was first introduced in 2016 to more than 75 per cent last year with more than 1.6 million subscribers. The Parking Authority estimates use of the app will reach almost 80 per cent this year and 85 per cent by the end of 2025. At the same time mobile usage for parking increases, the number of people using pay and display parking machines continues to decrease.

Starting next month the pilot program will see 13 Mobile Only Zones will be set up throughout downtown Toronto and North York where the Green P app is more widely used and there are fewer parking spots.

Along with rolling out the pilot program, the Parking Authority is continuing to spend money to replace the aging parking machines on the street even after acknowledging that a number of its on-street parking machines are not generating sufficient revenue to offset operational and capital costs. So far the agency has spent $2 million to replace 225 machines with another 2,500 more to be done, meaning the cost could escalate to more than $20 million.

The move to a purely cashless transaction has raised concerns when it comes to excluding seniors, those who don’t have access to technology and those in lower-income brackets.

“When we’re making all these changes we need to make sure that we’re spending our money wisely and that nobody’s left out and I really think that needs to be reviewed regularly,” said Coun. Paula Fletcher.

In a letter to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee last fall, Coun. Josh Matlow expressed similar concerns with the mobile zone program, asking that “careful steps are taken to ensure that no one is left behind and that a reasonable accommodation is provided.”

The Parking Authority will collect feedback on the mobile zone program before making recommendations to scale up or scale down.

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