A former City councillor has raised concerns about putting wireless parking kiosks in downtown at a cost of $1.7 million.
Denis Walsh said he has found out a few cities are moving away from kiosks back to parking meters, and he felt the City should raise parking rates for a couple of years and put that saved-up revenue toward new technology down the road.
But taking out a loan now and using to pay off such a big expense has him concerned. The rolls of paper for receipts with the kiosks are about $80 each, there are monthly warranty costs and other incidental expenses that add up, he said.
City council will mull over comments made at Tuesday night’s public meeting on the parking issue. The Kamloops Central Business Improvement Association has been working with City staff to come up with options to prevent employees from taking up stalls that business owners want to see put to use by customers.
The KCBIA favours putting in 90 kiosks to replace the current 850 parking meters that are old and in need of regular repair.
The City of Kelowna is going through a similar decision about kiosks and/or meters for its downtown.
Parking operations co-ordinator Dave Duncan said Thursday Kelowna installed kiosks where it had angled parking, as several vehicles would face the same machine.
But on other streets where cars park parallel, that city still has old-style meters.
“They work fine, they do the job,” he said. “There’s pros and cons to both.”
Pay stations have extra supply costs and if one is broken down, people have further to walk to pay for parking.
Meters, on the other hand, require more work to collect money from each device and, if they have credit card capability, there are more wireless charges simply because there are more of them.
Like Kamloops, Kelowna charges 50 cents an hour to park downtown. Vernon and Penticton charge $1 an hour — a rate Kamloops will probably move to, and Kelowna as well.
The Kamloops airport bought two kiosks — one for customer use, the other as a backup.
Airport manager Fred Legace said the $18,000 kiosk was moved inside the terminal last fall, and the feedback has been positive.
He had a security problem with the old kiosk system that involved a ticket on the dash indicating how long the vehicle’s owner would be away. An unscrupulous person could break into the vehicle, check the owner’s insurance for an address, and rob them while they were away, he noted.
“That’s been a big security concern from the day I got here.”
The new system involves licence plates, not time-stamped tickets, so no one knows how long the vehicle owner is gone, he said.
“It’s been probably one of the most well received things we’ve done. People don’t have to go back to their car.”
He agreed the paper rolls are expensive, but they last a long time. All the extra costs are calculated into the expenses for the system, he said.
“It can add up but at the end of the day what we gain from that is nearly hands off. We were trying to get an arms length, so we weren’t as involved in it,” he said.
“It was an improvement in customer service. We’ve gotten rave reviews for it.”
City community safety and enforcement manager Jon Wilson said digital meter heads and kiosks were considered as options for downtown.
There are also pay-by-phone options whereby someone could register an account with the City and pay for parking using their licence plate.
The KCBIA wanted a licence-plate based parking system because it matched with the City’s automated licence plate reading computer system for enforcement.
“I explored digital meters with senior management, and decision was to move forward with pay station option.”
While digital meters are more convenient, there are more of them to maintain and more wireless fee costs. So they have a lower capital cost, but higher operating, than kiosks.
The City already pays $86 per roll for thermal paper for kiosks at the Tournament Capital Centre and Interior Savings Centre lots.
“The reality is, we need new equipment on the street, no matter what it is.”
KCBIA manager Gay Pooler said new devices are just one part of the parking plan for downtown.
“This piece, the meters and rates, is one piece of that overall strategy. You can’t start picking it apart before you get started. The bigger picture has to be kept in mind to follow through with things,” she said, adding some business owners donated a lot of volunteer hours to contribute toward the plan.
“We would not support raising the rates and keeping the current meters. We want to see customer service improved,” she said.
“Let’s get into this century already.”