Paperless parking in the city has been put off until July because of a legal conflict with the Tauranga City Council's own parking bylaw.
The current bylaw empowers the council to collect parking fees from parking spaces that are controlled by pay and display parking meters.
It's the use of the phrase “pay and display” which may bring the paperless system in conflict with the council Traffic and Parking Bylaw (2012).
“Recent experience has taught us that even though the intent of a bylaw might be obvious, the precise wording needs to stand up to legal scrutiny so that no one can take advantage of technical loopholes,” says city council transportation manager Martin Parkes.
The words ‘pay and display' will be changed in the bylaw, along with several other minor amendments, including changing the term ‘public place' to ‘parking places'.
Any update to a council bylaw requires a formal amendment process, which includes a month of public consultation followed by hearings and deliberations, effectively postponing an upgrade of the pay and display parking machines until July.
“It is frustrating that we have to go through a complete process to change a few words, but this is the reality that local government operates under,” says Martin.
“We need to future-proof the parking machines. The bylaw needs to be future-proofed as well so that we can move ahead with new technology.”
The upgrade was due to start this month but Tauranga City Council's internal legal advisors warned that wording in the Traffic and Parking Bylaw (2012) needs to be updated first.
The paperless system was advertised in March, with the public being told that from this month CBD parking customers would be required to enter the vehicle registration number when paying at the parking machines.
The new system will send the information to the city council, enabling parking officers to check each vehicle's parking status according to its registration plate. No ticket will be issued by the machine for display.
City council staff say the city's system does not connect with the Ministry of Transport's computers. They cannot tell if the vehicle's warrant of fitness and registration are current.
All the standard payment options remain. Customers can still pay with cash, it's just that the machine will no longer print a ticket to display.
Shifting to the paperless system will save people the hassle of returning to their vehicle to display a ticket, says Martin. E-receipts are available.
The change is happening because the banking industry requires the council to upgrade the credit card function on all parking machines by June this year.
“We're taking the opportunity to future-proof the machines at the same time.”
Once begin it will take about a month to change over all the machines to paperless. The outer machine shells will remain, with the internal units being swapped for the pay-by-plate consoles. The total number of parking machines will reduce from 153 to 110.
“People won't have to return to their cars to display tickets, so we can increase the distance between each on-street parking machine,'” says Martin.
"The paperless system will also save the council a lot of maintenance. Most maintenance issues are caused by paper jams in the machines."
Bylaws and Parking team leader, Stuart Goodman says a parking payment app introduced last year has already demonstrated that people can adjust to paying for parking without displaying a ticket.
“PayMyPark is a handy app that lets you manage your parking remotely,” says Stuart.
“More people are using PayMyPark each month. Two hundred new users have signed up since January.
“It can be a bit unsettling the first time you walk away from your car having paid without displaying a ticket. But people get used to it pretty quickly and seem to prefer it.
“Building on the success of PayMyPark, we're looking forward to the whole system going paperless. It will be more efficient for our records and enable us to verify customer queries quickly and accurately.”
PayMyPark is free to download from the Google Play Store and the App Store.