More paperless parking meters

The new machine. Photo by ODT.
The new machine. Photo by ODT.
A trial of pay-by-plate parking meters has been extended from the Octagon to other parts of Dunedin until March, when it will be decided if the system should go citywide.

A $7500 parking meter which does not issue a ticket, unless a receipt is specifically requested, was installed in March last year after concerns about the amount of pollution caused by paper parking tickets issued by standard parking meters.

The new machines, which are similar to the system used in Brisbane, require users to input the amount of time they need and their licence plate number.

Dunedin City Council regulatory services manager Kevin Thompson said the paperless system also meant people could input their cash and plate number and then go about their business, rather than have to return to their vehicle to place a ticket inside, which was advantageous to people with disabilities and the elderly.

People could park in any slot within the area covered by the meter while their paid time was current.

The Otago Daily Times was recently contacted by a reader concerned the meters could lead to an invasion of privacy on the part of the council.

David Cohen said he was concerned about whether there were safeguards on the information being collected, who could access and use it and the potential for the wholesale collection of personal movement information entailed in knowing where, and for how long, people park.

Dunedin City Council parking meter technician Reece Smith said the council had been contacted with similar concerns, but was confident there would be no privacy issues with the system.

He said the time paid and licence plate number entered into the machine was sent to a website, run by the meter company, accessible only by council meter technicians, parking officers and a parking services administrator, who had specific log-in details.

The information was accessed via a hand-held device by parking officers checking areas covered by the meters.

No personal information was held on the website, only the licence plate number, which was not linked to a name or address.

If a vehicle was found to be infringing parking rules, officers then followed their normal enforcement procedures on a separate hand-held device to issue an infringement notice.

Once the paid-for parking time was up, the plate number was automatically deleted from the website, Mr Smith said.

If the system became permanent, a time period for holding the information from the meter in the case of infringements, giving people enough time to challenge a ticket, would have to be set.

Mr Thompson said a survey of users last year showed 79% liked the new Octagon machine.

Negative feedback mainly centred around change and frustrations at using a different system, and having to memorise or go back for licence plate numbers.

As a result of the survey, it was decided to extend the trial and install more machines, at the council's Filleul St and Frederick St car parks, he said.

If the trial was successful and received council endorsement, other meters around town could be converted at no extra cost when they needed to be refurbished.

The project would be paid for within existing budgets and over several years.

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