Toronto’s parking machines don’t much like Queen Elizabeth’s shiny new face.
“This one didn’t work,” said Verinder Kumar, holding a gleaming 2012 loonie after it landed with a clink in the reject slot of a parking authority machine on Front St.
The Royal Canadian Mint’s newest batch of 2012 loonies and toonies are manufactured with multi-ply plated steel technology. As such, they weigh a little bit less than their alloy predecessors, and the city’s parking machines don’t recognize them. The Mint made the switch because the coins have more security features and are cheaper to produce.
But what’s less expensive for the government is more costly for purveyors of coin.
For the Toronto Parking Authority, upgrades to the 2,978 machines are expected to cost $1 million.
At a board meeting Wednesday, the TPA approved the $355.40-per-machine upgrade. The money will come out of the operating budget for the year.
The TPA is an arm’s-length agency of the city, which turns 75 per cent of its net operating income over. In 2010, that was $36 million.
The necessary software and mechanical changes to the pay-and-display machines should start next week, and TPA president Gwyn Thomas expects the work will be completed by the summer. Precise Parklink Inc. will do the reprogramming of the machines, probably starting downtown and working outwards. TPA staff will also do some of the field work, he said.
The Calgary Parking Authority is already in the process of recalibrating its 770 machines. The software was purchased from the service provider and the labour is being done in-house. Not counting those internal costs, Calgary is budgeting $30,000 for the switch.
Toronto uses Parkeon machines, and Precise Parklink is the Canadian distributor. As such, they have the sole rights for the software upgrade, Thomas explained.
Upgrades are a fact of life for the city’s parking meters. In 2007, the TPA paid $10 million for credit-card reader upgrades for the fleet. The upgrade was meant to reduce card fraud, but because of the processing technology, uncollected and declined transactions nearly doubled in 2008, an audit later found. A $7 million upgrade followed.
Some members of the snack and beverage vending industry say they are also frustrated with the extra costs of the new coins.
In an email, a spokesperson for the Mint said the vending industry and “coin acceptance mechanism manufacturers” have known about this for two years.
“Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the individual operators to initiate the changeover of equipment, the necessity of which we have communicated for several years,” Alex Reeves wrote.
By the time the TPA’s machines are ready to accept the new loonies and toonies, you might need to carry a few extra. The authority is in the midst of a rate review and will be meeting in May to discuss a possible change. The last increase was in 2007.