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Put away the plastic when parking downtown

City moves to eliminate credit card machines for on-street parking

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

With the success of a new smartphone app for parking in downtown Oshawa, city staff are recommending the credit card function be removed from the pay and display machines.

Launched in 2015, the Honk Mobile app has allowed those parking in the downtown to do so through a smart-phone based app, which allows users to pay and update their parking on their device.

The app has seen a significant uptake since its initial launch, with usage increasing from 5.2 per cent in September 2015 to nearly 41 per cent by October 2016, according to recently released report.

Now, the city is looking to replace the aging machines that have dotted the sidewalks since their installation in 2005. While many face mechanical issues, the “significant portion” of the cost is associated with maintaining the credit card functionality.

With the popularity of the new app, credit card usage on the machines has plummeted from nearly 95 per cent of those parking downtown in September 2015 to 59 per cent in October 2016.

For that reason, staff are recommending councillors approve the replacement of the 90 on-street machines without the credit card option.

“It’s probably better to do them all at once. The machines are aging and we are starting to incur problems with them,” Ron Diskey, the city’s commissioner of community services, told councillors.

The machines without the credit card reader are also significantly cheaper as cash machines run only $7,000 per unit compared to $16,000 for one with the reader. In total, the staff recommendation will cost the city $630,000 compared to $1.4 million if council chose to replace the machines and keep the credit card functionality.

The city will also be saving $87,000 annually for “communication fees” and $13,333 in “banking fees” by axing the credit card option.

The machines were approved for replacement in 2015 when the contract to maintain them had expired – however, the project was deferred. For that reason, $715,000 has already been allocated for the purchase of new machines.

The switch did draw the concern of Councillor Doug Sanders, who noted the removal of the credit card option could negatively impact some residents who don’t use the app.

“There are still people who do not have cell phones,” he said.

However, he was satisfied by the fact that the credit card function would still be offered within the city’s surface lots downtown.