Some residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality are advising fellow commuters to give themselves plenty of buffer-time before heading to urban cores to navigate the new parking station system.
While the city describes the multi-million-dollar electronic system as making it easier for people to pay for on-street parking, some residents say the new system “growing pains” are more of a hinderance, than a benefit.
Ross Sheppard, a Bedford resident, said he had a negative experience trying to use the new pay station in downtown Dartmouth.
“I was frustrated that I couldn’t actually operate the parking meter, which I felt should be easier than this to operate.”
The new machines use a pay-by-plate, pay-by-zone system, replacing individual pay meters.
City staff say the new on-street parking pay stations have been in the works for several years and that the Halifax Regional Municipality is one of the last larger municipalities to get onboard with the new parking technology.
“In the development of the technology we worked with other jurisdictions to learn from them what worked, and what didn’t,” said Victoria Horne, the manger of parking services with the municipality.
“We also had the parking advisory committee which is compromised of representatives from the business improvement districts. It also has representation from private-lot owners that have these machines,” Horne said.
Sheppard said he isn’t opposed to new technology, the lack of “user-friendliness” caused him to question why the on-screen prompts weren’t easier to navigate.
“If you have a problem you can call 311, and somebody does come online but usually it says go to the internet to follow the prompts there. But of course, when you’re standing outside and it’s raining, you don’t especially want to spend the time figuring out how the machine is going to work,” he said.
Heather Smith, a Dartmouth resident, said she ran into a similar frustration when she recently tried to pay for an on-street parking spot in downtown Halifax.
“It wasn’t a very good experience. I was unable to use the meter, as were the people who were in front of me at the line at the pay station. The screen wasn’t user-friendly at all,” Smith said.
The new pay stations are now installed on-street and offer people the option of parking for up to four hours at a time.
Horne acknowledges the new system may cause some frustration for people as they familiarize themselves with it, but assures residents there are options for support and feedback.
“We are trying to be as flexible as possible on-street. We have officers out educating, instead of just issuing tickets, they’re helping residents if they encounter residents that have issues at the pay stations, we have added resources in 311,” Horne said.
For now, Sheppard is advising anyone who is looking for on-street parking to familiarize themselves with the new system online before they head out the door.
“I would look into it before I went if you haven’t used them before because I myself, found it very frustrating,” he said.