Dial-up meter payment to start soon
By Colleen MacPherson
Paying for parking on campus will soon be as easy as dialing a cell phone.
Next week a six-month pilot project will begin at some 600 meters on campus and about 200 others at Innovation Place. Drivers will able able to pay for their parking by dialing 955-9969 on a cell phone and entering the four-digit number located on a sticker on each meter. It means no longer worrying about having quarters, loonies or toonies in their pocket, according to the customer services administrator in Consumer Services, and the University will no longer have to deal with all that change.
“Handling a lot of coin is very labour intensive,” said Judy Wall. “We hope to cut back on how much coin we run through the meters”.
The system is being run by New Park Inc. which has offered the service on about 1,600 City of Saskatoon meters since last fall. The first use is free, she explained, then New Park will send a text message or phone the cell to provide registration and payment options. These include Visa, Mastercard, a pre-payment plan or a secure online payment method called PayPal. With all these options, “you will get a receipt for metered parking which you couldn’t get before,” she said.
To stop payment at the meter, the driver simply calls again on the same cell phone. The charge will be for the amount of time used in blocks that range from 12-minutes at high-usage meters to one hour in low-usage areas, Wall explained. Enforcement officers will used wireless pocket PCs to ensure meters have been paid by cell and to determine the time remaining. Wall warned that if the stop payment call is not made, the maximum rate at the meter will be charged.
She added all cell phones will work, regardless of service provider.
The University is paying New Park a flat fee during the trial period. In return, the company will handle billing, provide a weekly usage log and will return paid parking fees to the University. The only cost to the University is the meter number stickers and a fee for the two hand-held units.
Wall said the start date of the campus pilot project will depend on getting the meter number stickers in place. “If the weather’s bad, we won’t get the stickers onto the meters. When the stickers are on, it’ll begin.”
At the end of six months, the University will assess the program. “People we have talked to are quite excited about this, but it is a trial so if people don’t like it, if it’s not widely accepted or if it’s not providing the advantages we expected, it likely won’t continue.”