Citizens concerned over cost of new technology

Kamloops residents got a chance to experience the proposed new pay station technology at a public information session Tuesday night.

By Jennifer Stahn

With two projects worth millions of dollars on display at the Interior Savings Centre Tuesday evening Kamloops residents got the chance to look at plans and ask questions – and they took advantage of the opportunity.

With the focus on the cost of upgrading the current parking meters to newer pay station technology a lot of people were concerned over both the idea of trying to keep up with constantly evolving technology as well as the cost of getting this latest technology.

Jon Wilson, community safety and enforcement manager, presented the same information at the session council saw last week – a project that would see the current 850 meters replaced by 90 new pay stations, an increase in rates and “parking paying for parking.” The project is currently estimated at $1.7-million with projected revenues of $920,000. The revenues would cover the annual operating costs and debt servicing in addition to providing a surplus that would feed a parking infrastructure fund.

When asked afterwards to clarify how the new machines would be paid for Wilson explained the project would show on the city books as debt, but 100 per cent of the debt would be paid for by the increase in parking revenues.

Many supported an increase in parking rates  - which is proposed to jump from the current 50 cents per hour to $1 per hour - but felt it could be done using the current meters. One person commented the city should not go into debt if it doesn't have to, “I don't think anyone using meters is saying where are those smart meters? I can't wait.”

Downtown business owner Bill Sanesh Jr. was excited about the prospects the new stations would offer, especially the option to validate parking for his customers, a simple act he said would help with the customer service experience downtown. He also noted the project “isn't going to cost the city, it'll cost those using the parking” or the businesses validating that parking.

With concerns over technology and rushing in to the project some suggested the city should “wait a couple more years...until technology firms up.” Kamloops Central Business Improvement Area general manager Gay Pooler was also at the meeting and offered a letter of support for the project with 52 signatures from local business owners. Pooler said KCBIA has been working on improving parking since 2002 so no one should be worried about rushing in to things.

Also on hand to answer questions, by-law services crew leader Daryll Webster fielded comments about the current meters being “simple technology, they're not hard to fix” by explaining the limitations of the meters. “The chutes wear out and cost $30 each to be replaced,” he told one man, “and we can calibrate 10 weights per denomination only.” Figuring out which year coins will most often be used is difficult, he said, because the Canadian Mint changed the weights nearly every year, “but the 80s were the worst” because of the weight fluctuations, he said.

Webster said by-law has to perform maintenance on an average of 6-12 units per day, usually involving the alkaline batteries or coin blockages – usually caused by people trying to “put in dimes and nickels because they didn't see the signs.” Many of the meters - which are said to have a life expectancy of about five years - are nearly 20 years old and have already faced many repairs. In addition to this constant maintenance his crews are also collecting change and performing enforcement.

Upgrades to Lorne Street and the reconfiguring of the intersection at Lorne Street, First Avenue and Landsdowne Street – which would see the removal of free right and left turns as well as the ability to turn left on to First Avenue from Victoria Street - also had some interest but ultimately most of the aired concerns were focused on the parking situation.

Both projects - which are being proposed for completion this year - will go before council next week.


To contact the reporter for this story, email or call (250) 819-3723.

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