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Harbour Drive Parking Pilot

The Harbour Drive pay by phone parking pilot project is about to start, and will continue for 1 year. Here are some of my thoughts about it, and below I share a post that Mayor Breen made in response to public commentary earlier this Spring.

Parking meter theft

We keep making national headlines about how many of our meters are stolen. The City of St. John’s has lost about $1.3 million dollars in recent years from broken parking meters, most of which have been vandalized. You can read more about this in the Paid Parking Management Strategy on page 9-14. While a lot of people have commented that they enjoy having free parking, it’s important to recognize that this revenue is needed to fund capital projects and for basic things like filling potholes.

No meters on Harbour Drive

Right now, there are virtually no meters left on Harbour Drive. Given the state of paid parking on the street, it is an ideal area to conduct a pilot project on the Pay By Phone system. Paid parking is available parking – businesses, for example, rely on shorter turn over to get customers to visit shops downtown.

Parking garage

During the pilot project, 351 Water Street, which enters and exits on Harbour Drive, has 30 minute+ parking times and accepts coins, debit cards, bills, credit. There are available spots and they are open 24 hours a day Monday-Friday. $2 for 30 minutes with $10 event parking and $15 daily maximum.

Permanent solutions must include options for everyone

I recognize that a permanent solution will have to include options for paying for parking for everyone, especially for those who do not have access to credit or a Smartphone.

While the pay by phone system can accommodate flip phones, if you forget your phone at home you will have to find another parking spot. This pilot will go on for a year for this street only and then be assessed.

Equitable access to paid parking is important, and City staff have included this in the first recommendation in the paid parking management strategy on page 14:

Multi-space parking kiosks

Multi-space parking kiosks will not be rolled out this June but there are some as part of the parking strategy, see pages 16-17; page 43. These kiosks can accept cash, and the feedback from the public around the importance of ability to use cash to access parking will be important here.

A brief synopsis of Pay By Phone

The following is from a Facebook post that Mayor Breen wrote earlier this Spring about paid parking in the City:

“This June the city will introduce a pay-by-phone only service to control 136 on street parking spaces on Harbour Drive. The new system is a pilot project that will be assessed after a full calendar year to see if any changes are needed. This project is part of a long term Paid Parking Management Strategy. The strategy outlines a comprehensive overview of the City’s existing paid parking system and makes 57 recommendations.

The full strategy is available online at

There have been many questions about the new Pay-by-Phone system that will be implemented on Harbour Drive.

What if I don’t want to use the app?

The app, and the associated toll-free service, are an additional payment option provided to people in the City. The PayByPhone System does not eliminate any existing parking options.

On Harbour Drive the existing meters have all been damaged and there are no more in place. Because of this, and the desire to test a PayByPhone only option, Harbour Drive will not have meters available for a one-year trial period. If PayByPhone only is not working for our community then new meters will be installed following this trial period.

Why isn’t St. John’s following other major cities?

PayByPhone is the largest cash free payment solution provider in the smart parking market and is used in major world cities and across Canada including Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Québec, Regina, Saskatoon, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. Around the world it is used in cities such as Boston, Dallas, Miami, New Orleans, San Francisco, London UK, Paris, Nice, and Geneva.

Is the ParkingBOXX a better solution for St. John’s where users pay at the box/station and then place a ticket in the window of their vehicle?

ParkingBOXX has variety of offerings, including systems that use a ticket, as well as multi-space parking meters and an app for payment by phone. Some of the equipment offered by ParkingBOXX could fulfill the needs of the City when our current meters are replaced. Whether or not they do so will be determined by a competitive bid process in the future.

The ‘pay and display’ system requires users to leave their car, pay at a pay station, and then return to their vehicles. This may be inconvenient for users, especially those with a mobility impairment. An inconvenient system leads to lower compliance with parking regulations, and subsequent increase in violations issued. This type of system ‘pay and display’ was explicitly considered as part of the Paid Parking Management Strategy (see page 16 of the report) and was ruled out in favour of a ‘pay by plate’ system.

With ‘pay by plate’ parking the validation is connected to the vehicle’s licence plate. This means users don’t need to return to the vehicle after paying. With the use of an app, users don’t need to visit a pay station or meter to pay for parking. If running late the app warns the user of the expiry and offers the chance to top up payment before it expires – all without needing to return to the vehicle. This is a benefit to businesses as patrons will not have to exit the businesses to make a payment.

One of the issues with any meters on the street that accept cash is that by storing cash they will be a target for vandalism. This is true of both our current meters and any replacements in the future. Vandalism targeted at cash accepting meters is a key reason why the Paid Parking Management Strategy identifies a desire to move to cashless payments for the whole parking system. This poses obvious challenges for those without smart phones or credit cards and the Paid Parking Strategy Recommends a careful and thoughtful transition toward cashless with constant evaluation of the cashless goal to determine whether it is viable.

Do I have to place a call to City Hall with a credit card if I don’t have the app?

No, you do not have to call city hall in order to pay.

PayByPhone offers a toll free automated service that allows customers to call in and book their parking. Customers will enter licence plate, parking zone, and credit card number. There is no wait time to access this service as it is all automated with clear voice instructions. The ability to call 311 for assistance is something we are exploring but not a primary mechanism for use of this system.

Does this new system expect tourists and non-residents to have an app on their phone?

No, it is not expected that users will have the app. On Harbour Drive we are testing the idea of PayByPhone which includes both the app and the option of paying via toll free telephone service.

In the future, as the app is rolled out in various areas of the City, it will offer an additional payment option, not eliminate any existing option. For example, in Churchill Square users will have options to either pay at the kiosk, pay using the app, or pay by calling the toll-free number. On Water Street people will have the option of using the meter as they do today or using the new PayByPhone app, whichever they prefer.

Over 17 million people used the PayByPhone app in 2017. For visitors to St. John’s who have used the app in other cities, it will present a custom welcome screen based on location so that users in St. John’s will know they are in the right place. This allows visitors who have used the service elsewhere to connect seamlessly, no new download required.”

If you have any further questions please feel free to contact myself or any member of Council.


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  • Lois Brown

    does the city own the “app”?