Welcome to London Civic Watch

"Ever wonder if City Council is as contentious and chaotic as it is sometimes portrayed? Here you can get a progressive perspective on some of the issues from someone who spent four years in the trenches. Totally unbiased, though! Feel free to comment but keep it respectful, just like they do at council."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Easing the pain of parking fines

Online payment of parking tickets comes to city hall.

Have you ever gotten a parking ticket in London? A ticket from the city, that is.

The city has the authority to levy fines on its parking lots or meters if your time has expired. Although no one enjoys paying fines, those levied by the city are fairly modest, only $20, unless you are illegally parked in a fire lane or in some areas during rush hour traffic. That’s only half the price of what Impark tries to get from you if you outstay their hospitality. As well, there are higher rates for illegally parking in parks or recreational areas, for using more than one space, for parking on boulevards, for parking in an accessible parking spot, and so forth.

Until now, if you received a ticket, you had a couple of options.

Option 1: Get a chequebook, make a cheque out to the city in the appropriate amount, find an envelope and address it, get a stamp, take the stamped envelope to the nearest mailbox. Hope to goodness you have remembered to include the cheque properly filled out.

Option 2: Drive to 824 Dundas Street East (Provincial Offences Building), look for a parking spot, find change to cover the cost of your parking, line up in front of the appropriate window (usually the shorter one), present your ticket, hand over a cheque or use debit or a credit card. Get back to your car in time to avoid getting another ticket.

But now there is a third option. You can go to your computer, log on to www.london.ca and click on Pay your Parking Ticket from the list of options on the right hand side. You’ll find some examples of parking tickets. Click on the one that looks like what you found on your windshield. A form will appear that allows you to fill in the blanks and, using a valid credit card, your fine is paid in a minute or two. 

Done. Finished. No more anxiety. Nothing looming over your head. No late payments. No second notices or threats of court action.

This is just a small example of recommendations that came out of the Services Review Committee on which I served for the last two years of my term on council. Our mandate was to review all services offered by the city to determine how efficient and effective they are and to identify areas for improvement, expansion or reduction.

Setting up an electronic payment system involves some costs in the short run; however, these are more than compensated for in the long run by reducing staff time in cashing payments and in chasing down recalcitrant violators. It certainly provides better service to the public.

One of the major benefits is likely to be the higher rate of fine payment. This is certainly what the public library recently discovered when it provided an online payment option. Although it does not result in a noticeable reduction in late returns of borrowed materials, more fines get paid promptly and fewer get sent to collections. And patron satisfaction is definitely higher with this no fuss option, meaning fewer arguments with staff about the fine. That frees staff to do its real job of assisting patrons with their requests for information.

Over the years I have had my share of parking tickets. They were always a source of annoyance and anxiety. My next ticket, I’ll still be annoyed, but not for long.

And I have learned to stay out of Impark parking lots.


Chris D, said...

Great idea. Your next one Gina? LOL

Sandy Levin said...

But, it costs the city money as the credit card companies take a percentage of the payment. As some of the parking fines haven't changed in 15 years or so, this means the city revenue may decline (although it is possible the collection costs may go down as well). Convenient, yes. Not revenue neutral as they say.

Gina Barber said...

Good point,Sandy. However, the credit card option is already available when paying in person, and there should be fewer NSF cheques, so alll in all, it should be a wash.