Parking downtown may no longer be as simple as plugging a quarter into the meter.
A forum Thursday evening organized by the Kamloops Voters Society looked at parking downtown in the wake of last year's failed parkade proposal on Lorne Street, and complaints by business owners of a shortage of on-street parking for their customers.
With the City shortlisting potential developers for a new multi-use parkade development in a yet-to-be-disclosed location, much of the focus was on today's 50-cents-an-hour rate and coin-operated meters.
City community and safety enforcement manager Jon Wilson noted the metered rate downtown hasn't changed in 18 years. The city's downtown business association is advocating a pay-by-licence-plate system whereby motorists could use credit cards or even cellphones.
"Very few people are carrying lots of change," Wilson said. "They're looking for other ways to pay."
Using new technology to replace the coin meters would also allow flexibility to allow three-hour parking in front of salons, for example.
"They need options and with our current meters we can't do that."
But some at the meeting at Desert Gardens seniors centre that attracted about 50 people said new technology is overkill and could scare some residents away.
"Technology is wonderful but many people here will have difficulty with the technology," said Penny Ouchi, president of Desert Gardens.
Downtown merchant Denis Walsh, a former city councillor, said using high-tech meters is not necessary across the entire downtown. It will cost an estimated $2.2 million to install the new system — something that will be covered by higher rates.
"Some people won't want to put their licence plate in. We need choice. We don't need to do the whole downtown. We need to pilot it."
The downtown business group and City believe the current on-street rate is so low that it discourages employees from using parkades and other lots — plugging up downtown streets.
City council has yet to approve any parking rate increases.
Brian Windsor, who operates a retail shop on Victoria Street, said meters with new technology will allow him to go online and pay his customers' tab for parking.
It would also allow parking for longer than three hours in some areas and for motorists to pay once, but park in multiple places downtown with a single payment on a particular day.