Saint John introduces pay-by-plate parking with 6 machines at St. Joseph's Hospital

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Saint John introduces pay-by-plate parking with 6 machines at St. Joseph's Hospital

Saint John introduces pay-by-plate parking with 6 machines at St. Joseph's Hospital

Saint John has six new pay-by-plate parking machines at St. Joseph's Hospital, which are expected to make it easier for users and enforcement officers, and save the city money.

Drivers no longer have to worry about having enough change to feed the old-style parking meters, or about the wind blowing their pay-and-display receipts face-down, or off their dashboard.

They just press the check mark to begin their session, key in their vehicle's licence plate number, press the check mark again, use the plus and minus buttons to select the amount of time they want, then pay by coins or credit card.

Once their information is inputted, enforcement officers can access it electronically. They have new hand-held devices that can scan a licence plate to determine if a vehicle's parking time has expired.

"It's a lot more efficient," said Saint John Parking Commission CEO Ian MacKinnon.

"Formerly, they had to do some manual checks and they had to punch things into a handheld. They can move quicker, so there's benefits there."

Eliminating the paper dashboard receipts is also expected to save at least $35,000 a year in paper costs alone, he said.

New for New Brunswick

The pay-by-plate machines, which have been in place for a few days, are believed to be the first in New Brunswick and Saint John has 11 more on order.

They will be installed in high-traffic areas, such as uptown, around King's Square, within the next few months, and pay-and-display machines will be moved to lower-traffic areas, said MacKinnon.

The old style parking meters will eventually be decommissioned.

Saint John area resident Albert Skelding wasn't keen on the change at first.

"I think they're making it harder for older people and maybe they'll be able to collect more fines," he said.

"Before, you put the change in, hit a button, [your receipt] comes out. Now it seems we're doing their job for them. Could be wrong but that's what it seems like to me."

Once parking commissionaire George Ferguson walked Skelding through the steps though, he remarked, "Well, it's not quite as hard as I thought."

Patrick Gallagher agreed "it seems fairly simple."

"But [the commissionaire] was doing it. … When I have to do it myself it might be a different story.

"I guess the [good] thing is that if you do run out of time on your ticket, you don't have to come out here to the car."

The hospital has one of the pay-by-plate machines in the lobby.

"So that's certainly an advantage. …​ These [hospital] appointments that are supposed to be at 10 o'clock might be at noon, so you just never know," he said.

If it's raining, snowing or freezing cold out, people don't have to pay outside either. They can head straight to the machine in the lobby.

HotSpot still an option

Although the pay-by-plate machines don't accept bills, the city expects tap for debit and Visa-debit to be available early next year.

​HotSpot Parking, which allows people to pay for their parking with their mobile devices, is still available.

MacKinnon estimated it's used about 60 per cent of the time.

"We'd like to go full digital with smartphones, but not everybody has a smartphone. Not everybody has a data plan for that matter," he said.

"Cash will always be an option and I think it always has to be an option."