The city has found a parking anomaly with the implementation of a new automated device that cuts meter attendants’ labour, giving them more time to write tickets to parking violators during a shift.
The new point-of-sale system allows a bylaw officer to enter relevant information into the computer on site, where it is automatically uploaded to the city’s database.
This does away with the attendant’s need to rush back to City Hall and re-enter their findings, making for a more efficient approach to ticketing.
But when the new system was introduced last month, it was realized early on that the device was picking up a historical bylaw that charged violators parking in city pay-and-display lots (including the Fortis and Trail Memorial Centre) a $10 fine, rather than the regular $5 rate that was manually interpreted before the introduction of the hand-held computer.
The system will be updated to a match this general $5 fee, when council votes to adopt the bylaw change on May 27.
“When we are trying to encourage regular users — downtown employees — to use the pay-and-display lots instead of parking all day at the parking meters in the downtown, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to subject them to a $10 fine if they are longer than expected returning to their vehicle and their ticket is expired,” explained Michelle McIsaac, city administrator.
In the downtown metered zones, violation notices are commonly issued for expired parking meters, over parking in a time zone, parking in a lane, loading zone or no parking zone or parking without a valid ticket displayed.The cost of fines vary, though most start at $5, with as much as a $35 ticket for parking in a handicap zone.
The city rolled out the new system, a $45,000 capital project, this year when it was realized that the city was in need for a more efficient system that would help crack down on chronic parking violators.
The automated system will aid the city in collecting over $150,000 worth of unpaid fines in the last four years, as the tool not only speeds up the process of filing fines but also has the intelligence to report on a driver’s ticket history.
“It’s a lot faster and I can make no judgement whether or not to cancel a ticket,” said Bernadette Racette, Trail parking meter attendant. “Once it is printed, it’s not up to me anymore. It has to be disputed at City Hall.”
Trail has yet to use its newly-purchased boot device that clamps a vehicle’s wheel when a driver has accumulated five unpaid parking tickets with one warning. The tool was acquired this year as a deterrent to up the compliance rate.
“I think it’s the most cost effective way,” said Racette. “The other option is to get an impound lot and tow trucks and to me that is just too much. The boot is far less costly and still has the same effect.”
It’s not an uncommon site to see Trail professionals or shoppers running to their vehicles to plug their meter when Racette patrols downtown streets in her noticeable blue bylaw officer uniform.
“If they’re plugging the meter or they’re leaving and they catch me before I’ve hit print, I’ll let them pay the meter or leave because voluntarily compliance is the goal,” she said. “But if I’ve printed the ticket, I’ll inform them of the dispute process because they’re really is nothing I can do at that point.”
While there is a push for professionals to park in pay-and-display lots, McIsaac does acknowledge the growing need for these stalls.
“For the past several years when the meter rates were increased it provided an impetus for people to seek parking in the reserved lots that we have and since that time we’re fairly consistently as capacity,” she said. “We recognize there is a need for increased parking downtown.”
Trail has a plan in place for the Groutage Avenue informal parking lot but it didn’t make this year’s capital budget.
The city would have to officially create more stalls by paving and marking the lot before drivers can expect to pay for parking there.