Toronto Parking Authority test drives payment system

The Toronto Parking Authority is launching a program in the summer that will enable customers to pay for their spaces with a transferable corporate parking card.

“”What we thought was an issue with companies with

sales forces is that they had no audit control over their sales people”” who regularly hand in multiple parking invoices, said Lorne Persiko, vice-president of real estate and marketing for the parking authority.

Users will swipe the card, which uses ordinary magnetic stripe technology, at parking lot machines. The card links to a customer profile, said Stephen Jack, marketing director at Toronto-based Mint Inc., a mobile payment firm that’s administering the system for the Toronto parking operator. That profile indicates the person’s name, licence plate number, whether they’ll pay by credit card, a bank account or other method, whether they’re part of a company or a fleet and the time and locations at which they’ve parked.

Toronto has 200 off-street lots and 18,000 on-street spaces. The Toronto Parking Authority –which says it’s the largest municipal parking operator in North America — is targeting companies with staff who routinely visit clients on sales calls or attend many meetings.

Another group the parking authority aims to capture is “”the business user as an individual or heavy parkers as an individual”” who are transient customers without monthly passes, said Jack.

Since customers can view bills online, they can download their parking expenses to a standard spreadsheet that’s part of their employer’s online expense report, Jack said, adding that bills include tax breakdowns and GST numbers.

Mint licensed the base platform from Sweden-based Mint AB, which doesn’t own the Toronto company. It operates a version of the parking scheme in which people use cell phones instead of parking cards to track their parking tendencies.

“”We’re actually launching that pay-by-cell phone service in February in Vancouver and Victoria,”” Jack said. “”We were able to find some parking operators there that wanted to do that. They’ve expressed interest in bringing card-based solutions as well.

“”In TPA’s case, they’ve started with cards, they’re looking at cell phone and there’s other discussions with other operators regarding transponders.”” Mint is talking to other North American cities about rolling out the technology.

The benefit of logging into cell phones is customers can stay in their cars during frigid or humid weather and receive an SMS receipt, he explained.

Mint anticipates offering marketing promotions and discounts for customers in the future. Jack estimates so-called transient parkers account for 50 per cent of the revenue for parking authorities. Once these companies and business people sign up for the corporate parking card, it’s easier for Mint to know who they are and offer restaurant coupons or co-promotions at gas stations, he explained.

The Toronto Parking Authority earns a percentage of company user fees, which are undetermined, and all parking revenues.


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