Corp Comm Connects

Parking on the street? You might soon need an app for that

City considers pilot project to remove parking meters and machines to encourage drivers to pay via phones.
Sept. 18, 2023
Moira Welsh

With public propensity for Toronto’s Green P parking payment app on the rise, the city is reconsidering its use of pay-and-display machines and coin-ingesting meters.

A City of Toronto staff report is recommending a pilot project that, if passed by city council, would designate a study of 13 “mobile only zones” for on-street parking payments using the app, text and QR codes. The pilot could last up to 12 months and determine the future mode of Green P payments.

Since the app was introduced in 2016, it has grown from 49 per cent of the Green P parking fee transactions to 75 per cent in 2023 and by the end of 2025, the Toronto Parking Authority predicts it will hit 85 per cent, according to the report that will be discussed at the city’s infrastructure committee meeting on Wednesday.

“We have seen great uptake and this is really testing whether we can improve that uptake even more,” said Jennifer McKelvie, committee chair and deputy mayor.

“There are a lot of conveniences with mobile payments,” McKelvie said. “You don’t need to leave your car and return. So, no more climbing over snowbanks and then walking back to put your ticket on the dash. If you’re out at your events and you’re running late, you can pay at your venue. You don’t need to run back to your car again.

“So I think there’s a lot of benefits. And these mobile only zones will be a good test of the uptake.”
McKelvie said she will be discussing other lower-tech accommodations during the committee meeting this week.

“For example, some seniors may have an older cell phone, they may not have a data package. So, I’ll ask questions around that.”

In addition to the Green P app, the Toronto Parking Authority (TPA) oversees 2,728 pay-and-display parking machines along with 178 single-space parking meters, collecting $44.7 million in 2022, the staff report said. The TPA is a city agency that oversees 21,500 municipal on-street pay-and-display parking and off-street parking lots in Toronto.

The recommended 13 mobile only zones, the staff report said, would be chosen based on criteria such as the high use of the mobile app in that area; single-space parking meters that have reached the end of life or, few parking spots for the stationary pay machines.

The TPA, the report said, reviewed its on-street paid parking and, based on the popularity of mobile payments, “determined that a number of its on-street (pay and display) parking machines are not generating sufficient revenue to off-set operational and capital costs.”

The report has to be approved by council before the pilot project and “mobile only zones” can move forward.

The pilot seems like a natural evolution but there are some Torontonians whose needs should be considered, said city councillor Josh Matlow.

“We live in an age where you can now ride the subway by tapping your watch to pay,” Matlow said. “It’s very reasonable that they are looking to modernize how residents pay for parking. That said, I hope this pilot will consider the fact that not everyone is comfortable with using a smartphone, including some seniors and that those who aren’t tethered to devices are accommodated.

“They shouldn’t be forgotten. The world is moving in a direction that is understandable, but we can’t leave people out. And that’s what this pilot needs to consider.”