Simplifying the parking headache

[attach]6425[/attach]Fed up with persistent parking troubles on Eglinton Avenue and Yonge Street, local business associations and a councillor are looking to make it a little easier on drivers who visit the area’s busiest commercial strips.

Karen Stintz, councillor for Eglinton-Lawrence, is working with the Toronto Parking Authority to create a fast-track card that essentially acts as a credit card for parking payment.

“A person would register with us and leave a standard credit card number,” said Gwyn Thomas, president of the Toronto Parking Authority.

“It would charge against that credit card number that we have on file here, and then we would automatically send them a weekly PDF statement of their usage.”

It’s a small token for shoppers, as users wouldn’t need to use an actual credit card for a $1.50 purchase or fumble through a wallet to find coins, Stintz says.

The BIAs, parking authority and Stintz are only in initial talks, but Stintz wants to pilot it in the Uptown Yonge and Eglinton Way Business Improvement Area associations — where proprietors say aggressive parking enforcement is driving customers away.

Eglinton Way’s chair, Maureen Sirois, says merchants are at their wit’s end. Enforcement officers are “constantly, constantly, constantly” on the street ticketing, she says.

“When people keep getting tickets, they stop coming. The foot traffic on Eglinton has declined like crazy.”

Sirois, who owns a fashion accessories store at Castle Knock Road and Eglinton, says the BIA has addressed the issue with parking enforcement, only to be told drivers shouldn’t be breaking the law.

“True,” Sirois says. “But it’s relentless.”

The proposal is far from the ideal option, Stintz said, as the card would do nothing to help visitors add more time on the meter via a remote payment method.

Additionally, customers can’t preload the proposed card because neither parking enforcement nor the parking authority are equipped with the proper technology to facilitate it.

These headaches could be avoided, Stintz says, if the Toronto Parking Authority launches a mobile phone payment system, currently in the works. As in other municipalities, users could then register their licence plate with the parking authority and bypass the pay-and-display ticket process altogether.

Stintz accused the parking authority of dragging its feet on the development and rollout.

“They’ve been saying they are going to do this since 2010,” she says. “It’s a meeting I’ve been having for two years.”

Toronto Parking Authority’s vice-president of strategy and communications, Ian Masher, says the rollout is on schedule.

“It’s never been identified as a priority for the parking authority until last September — that’s when our board addressed it.”

He added it’s taken other municipalities two years to develop and implement a mobile payment system. The authority is intending to roll out their system in early 2013.