Cody Oschefski says he's never one to back down from a challenge.
During the last regular meeting of council while tempers flared and rhetoric was heated in regards to the contentious issue of parking terminals in the downtown core, and specifically the motion to put the project on pause, Oschefski received a text message from a politically active resident.
“The message was a challenge to meet them down here this morning at 10:30 a.m. to show them how these machines work, and here I am,” said Oschefski who stood beside a parking terminal outside of St. Paul’s United Church on King Street, just down from the Midland Public Library.
A notice of motion was brought forward during the council meeting to pause the parking terminals to fix any technical issues and customer service relations, resulting in a recorded vote defeat of 3-to-6; Oschefski’s vote was nay.
“It’s not necessarily a challenge,” said Oschefski of the text summons. “This is our job as councillors: to be responsible for the decisions we make, and to be down here showing our face when people aren’t happy with the decisions we make.”
No one appeared at the allotted time, but Oschefski provided a demonstration nonetheless.
A first attempt to acquire 15 minutes of free parking met with failure, and a second attempt was made. Buttons were pushed, but the councillor missed a step and was momentarily confused to why the process had halted; he hadn’t entered his license plate at the on-screen prompt.
“I think that is a lot of the problem,” Oschefski admitted with a laugh. “We’re all frustrated. It’s not as easy as just throwing a quarter in and turning the dial.”
The terminal completed the transaction and issued a physical ticket with current time, the amount of time purchased, and the licence plate. As the data had been collected in the system, there was no need to return to the vehicle to place the ticket in the windshield.
“Now that I’m comfortable with the machines I think I can just push buttons through,” he self-reprimanded. “A lot of it is just slowing down, reading the prompts, taking a deep breath, and realizing that it’s not that tricky.”
Moments later, Oschefski went through the motions to purchase a 30-minute pass for fifty cents, receiving a ticket within one minute of starting.
In the parking lot behind the Midland Public Library, local resident Kaelyn Thom was seen at the parking terminal helping another citizen, although both were seen staring intently at the tall black box.
“She was an elderly woman and she was finding it very confusing,” Thom explained. “It was her first time using it and she was having trouble with her credit card.
"We tried again with some coins and she had a dentist appointment. But she said she had actually called the town and had no luck getting through, and so she had some questions about it, but we were successful afterwards."
A short time later, a middle-aged man was seen struggling with the parking terminal. He declined to comment on his situation, expressing frustration that he only had minutes remaining until an important medical appointment, but the parking terminal’s instructions were more than he could handle. A townsfolk approached to purchase a full hour, enough time to send him on his way.
Jean Miso, an author from Toronto, was visiting Midland when she attempted to use the same parking terminal.
Only desiring the one free hour option, Miso was stymied from the outset as no easily visible option was provided. After trial and error, Miso pressed the ‘Tap Card’ option, allowing her access to enter her licence plate and register in the system. When asked if she wanted a receipt, Miso hesitated too long and the transaction completed without handing her a slip of paper.
“I think it’s very confusing,” said Miso, “and I think it will lend itself to a lot of tickets where people would want to pay, but they’re not sure -- like right now, I’m not sure if I’m registered or not.” As a seasonal visitor, Miso admitted that she would have to relearn the parking system once per year.
Oschefski waited at his parking terminal until 15 minutes had passed before leaving to resume his day elsewhere.
“I support the machines. I understand this is the gold standard across the province. I think it’s going to take some time to get comfortable with them and I do understand there’s growing pains,” he stated.
Residents having trouble with the terminals can use the E11 customer service request E-System to submit a complaint or observation directly to the town, available through a form on the Midland website.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca