New parking meters in Penticton lots close loophole

Rather than issue a ticket, the new Penticton parking machines require users to input their license plate.

Paying for parking isn’t usually considered a pleasurable experience, but new parking machines in downtown parking lots promise to make it a little quicker and easier to give up your money.

As long as you remember your licence plate number, that is.

Rather than issue a ticket, the new machines require users to input their license plate, which also closes a loophole that may have been costing the city tens of thousands in lost parking revenue.

“This speeds up enforcement and it actually speeds up the experience for customers too, because they don’t have to print out a physical ticket, and then walk back to their car and make sure something is on their dash,” said Simone Blais, communications officer for the city. “They can just pay by plate at the machine, and once they are completed, just head on to whatever shops they are going to.”

But while the machines still allow one hour free parking, users will no longer be able to go to the machine and repeat the process to get multiple free hours.

When he introduced the new city parking strategy last December, Anthony Haddad, director of development services, estimated that loophole cost the city up to $50,000 in 2012.

The current machines, he told city council at the time, do not have the ability to restrict the vouchers to one time per user.

About 140,000 free vouchers have been issued for 2012, up from 40,000 during the first few years of the program.

“There has been no significant indicator that would contribute to this increase other than users constantly printing out the free vouchers,” Haddad explained.

Blais said the new machines remove the loophole some were taking advantage of, making it fairer for all.

“It’s not particularly an equitable system when you have that,” she said. Each vehicle can receive an hour of free parking every 12 hours.

“If you purchase more than an hour of parking, the first hour will be free.”

The new machines have been installed in all five city-owned lots downtown at a cost of about $15,000, according to Blais.

“The old machines were at the end of their lifespan and were causing maintenance problems,” she said.

“So they needed to be replaced no matter what. And a lot of municipalities are going towards technology like this. It’s more intuitive and offers more functionality for customers.”