Toronto says Web terminals boost parking revenues

The president of Toronto’s parking authority says Web-based terminals that minimize downtime, afford real-time meter monitoring capability and accept credit cards have played the largest role in a tripling of the city’s parking revenues since amalgamation in 1998.

Of course, if you live in

Toronto or regularly visit the city, you know there are other reasons for the revenue jump. In the years since all the former boroughs and mini-cities were stuck together to create the new city of the Toronto, the city has raised meter rates and reduced free parking hours, resulting in $6 million a year in additional revenue, according to Maurice Anderson, president of the Parking Authority. New security features on single-space meters curbed vandalism, resulting in an extra $1 million in revenue.

But the Web-based terminals are generating $16 million of the $30 million the city nets in parking revenue each year, up from $9.5 million before amalgamation.

The terminals represent a three-way arrangement between the City of Toronto, New York-based SchlumbergerSema, which provides the Pay & Display technology, and Toronto-based PreciseParklink, which handles the day-tp-day IT management of the system. “”This to me is the ideal private-public partnership,”” Anderson says.

The terminals have raised revenues in three ways. The most obvious is that the terminals do not allow drivers to park on time left over from the last person in the spot.

“”In a single space metre, Joe Public pays, and when he drives away the meter is still showing some time”” where the bought time expires when the Pay & Display customer leaves, says George Levey, vice-president of e-City of the transaction systems North America division for SchlumbergerSema. Anderson says this alone contributes about $4 million in extra revenue annually.

The terminals also generate extra revenue because they accept credit cards, where single-pay meters leave drivers scrambling for change. Anderson says about 20 per cent of the terminal users pay by credit card, contributing about $4.5 million to city coffers each year.

Further largesse comes from monitoring ability and reliability of the terminals.

Toronto has 1,300 (Anderson expects to add another 300-400 this year) of the terminals, which are guaranteed to be operational more than 90 per cent of the time. Single-space meters have a much higher failure rate, according to Levy.

“”We deal with cities where they’ve had 50 per cent of their meters down at any one time,”” says Levey, whose company manages 150,00 terminals and 2 million spaces worldwide.

The Pay & Display terminals, which each replace about 10 single-space meters, regularly communicate with parking authority servers, informing parking authority staff of, for example, if a battery has died or paper has run out.

“”The meter wakes up at a minimum once a day to say ‘the meter’s okay.’ It will call back more often than that if there’s a problem,”” Levey says. “”They have constant contact.””

Anderson says the automation allows him to monitor the terminal parking with only 19 staff, of which one is dedicated to keeping the machines filled with paper and another “”1.5″” to preventative and corrective maintenance.

Staff can also use the Web-based technology to see how efficient staff are at collecting monies from the terminals and how much money is in a terminal at any given time.

“”He can schedule his collections by knowing which metres need collection,”” Levey says.

Finally, the terminals allow Toronto and other cities to protect their revenues, both by monitoring exactly how much money comes in and by protecting it has been deposited.

“”It’s a major selling point,”” Levey says. “”Our product is made out of nine-gauge steel. It’s a safe on the street.””

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