Vancouver swapping out coin parking meters for modern pay stations in $14M project

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Many a Vancouver driver has pulled up to a parking meter only to find it out of service or rigged by vandals trying to steal coins —and now the city hopes to reduce that hassle by investing millions in new pay stations.

More than 11,000 parking meters are already in the process of being replaced at a cost of $14 million, according to Paul Storer, director of transportation for the city.

No longer will there be meters at every parking spot — and while drivers may have to walk a bit further to plug the machine, Storer says the extra few steps will be worth it.

While some of the old meters only take change, the new stations will accept coins, cards and payments by mobile phone, Storer said, and they are not as easy to vandalize.

He said city staff field many calls from people who have dropped money into the older meters, only to have the payment not register.

This is often because someone has jammed the machine by snaking a homemade chain or string into the coin slot to block coins from landing in the holding chamber.

After the frustrated parker moves on, the thief returns and uses magnets or a homemade device to fish out the coins.

"These are going to be a lot harder to tamper with," said Storer about the new pay stations.

Storer said the replacement machines have technology that will alert staff when they are broken so responding to any issues can be done faster.

Also, he said, the old machines have simply "reached the end of their life" and finding equipment to repair them has become a challenge.

The City of Vancouver collects, on average, about $60 million annually in parking revenue, according to Storer.

He said parking prices will stay the same with the new machines, with the possible exception of increased pricing during special events in the future.