Explainer: New parking technology

New parking technology

Montreal battering rams, er, drivers are being treated to some nifty new parking technology. The city is bringing new electronic parking meters to the downtown core in an effort to simplify parking payment, and, of course, earn a little more coin for its coffers.

Explainer drops a coin on the new system.

1. (on logo) This is what is called a "pay and go" parking system. Drivers park their cars, go to a terminal like this, enter the number for the spot they parked in (which is displayed on a sign), and pay either by cash or credit card. Then they walk away. No going back to put a ticket on your car – the system logs what spot you are in and the length of time you purchased. When a meter maid comes to check, they use a handheld device that instantly displays which spots are paid for and which aren’t. There are currently 15,600 parking meters in the downtown core and the city will install 500 of the new systems over the next year. There are already 60 of them in operation along Ste-Catherine, Bishop and MacKay Streets. The terminals will save the city money because each terminal replaces roughly 12 existing meters, and because they are solar battery powered, which cuts down on power costs. (A test in 2003 showed that the meters maintained power in extreme weather conditions.) The new terminals will also increase revenue because they allow the city to apply different rates and restrictions to different areas, as well as track parking activity to better capitalize on trends. For example, prices could go up in a certain area for a selected period of time, or the city could easily expand paid parking hours (see #3). The city can also temporarily forbid parking due to a festival or snow removal.

2. (on terminal) These terminals are made by Cale Technologies, a Swedish company with operations in Quebec. The payment, management and network technologies are provided by 8D Technologies, a Montreal company. "We bring the brain that controls all the components and displays and do the real-time wireless payments," says 8D president and CEO Isabelle Bettez. She says there may soon come a time when motorists can pay for parking using cellphones or other devices. The terminals use secure wireless technology to send the parking data to a central system and process payments. Each terminal is a little over five feet high and 1.5 feet wide.

3. (on curb or car) Parking is a hot topic in Montreal. The city announced it will be stepping up its parking enforcement in order to generate an additional $4.2-million in revenue in 2005. The Quebec government is also considering legislation that would allow the city to collect tax on parking spots. This could generate between $15- and $26-million in revenue per year. Finally, the city is thinking about expanding paid parking times later into the evening and even on weekends.

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