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Parking system adds smartphone app, new fees

New system will allow users to pay for parking, tickets on their phones – but with newly introduced fees.
Parking Meter

THUNDER BAY – A new system will allow Thunder Bay residents to extend parking sessions or pay tickets in seconds online, but that convenience comes with new user fees.

City council on Monday approved an agreement with U.S.-based Passport Labs Inc. for a parking enforcement system including new software and hardware, a smartphone parking payment app, and an online ticket payment service.

The company works with other municipalities including Toronto, Kitchener, Orillia, Timmins, and Windsor, staff noted.

Users can download Passport’s mobile app free to Android and iPhone devices, allowing them to pay for on-street or off-street municipal parking spaces. They can also extend parking sessions through the app, and pay for parking tickets as soon as they are issued.

App users will pay a 15 cent “convenience fee” per parking session, while online payment will come with a $3.50 fee per parking ticket.

The system is expected to be in operation before the end of the year, said Parking Authority supervisor Jonathan Paske.

Some other cities have seen up to 30 per cent uptake in the first year, he said, but was unsure how quickly the new options would catch on in Thunder Bay.

Coun. Shelby Ch’ng welcomed the move, saying the modernized system will be far more user-friendly and good for businesses, which can opt to cover parking for paying customers via the system.

The city will continue to offer cash payment options, Ch’ng emphasized, noting that remained important to some residents.

The city’s existing systems are at the end of their useful life, according to a report from the licensing and enforcement division, which called equipment failures “an on-going problem” and noted some of the technology is no longer supported by vendors.

Existing parking meters will remain in place for those who prefer to pay with coins, the city said.

The Thunder Bay Parking Authority will pay an annual fee of $15,000 to the company for the enforcement app and ticket management system, up from current annual fees of $5,600.

The number of tickets issued for expired meters is expected to decline under the new system, since users can check the status of their meter and top it up from their phones, the city said. However, that would also increase meter revenue.

City staff noted the agreement with Passport Labs had undergone a "privacy impact assessment," saying all end user data will be stored in Canada and will be pursuant to the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA).

Ian Kaufman

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