In a world where payments can be made with the tap of a card or the touch of a phone screen, more than 68 per cent of the CBD's 640 parking spaces still rely on coin-only payments. Abe Leach asks when Whanganui parking will catch up.
Although more than 200 parks can be paid for by smartphone, it's the inconsistency that Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall says is a concern.
Victoria Ave has 44 coin-only pay by space machines that serve 255 parking spaces.
Single head coin-only meters are used for parking spaces on Guyton St, Ridgway St, Maria Place, Watt St and St Hill St.
In November last year Whanganui District Council introduced the ParkMate app for "pay and display machines", which allows users to pay for parking with credit or debit card via the app.
There are 71 on-street spaces and 132 off-street spaces, mostly around Taupo Quay and Drews Ave, which can be purchased through the app.
The meters do have capacity to take credit or debit card payment directly by inserting a card, however the machines' card readers have been sealed by council.
The only meter in the Whanganui district capable of coin, card and app payments is at the airport.
Council compliance manager Warrick Zander said the standardising and upgrading of Whanganui's parking meters was identified two years ago in the 2017 Parking Management Plan.
"The budget was approved in the 2018–2028 Long Term Plan. As part of the upgrade we will look at installing new parking meters throughout the metered area of Whanganui to provide up-to-date parking technology including multiple payment options.
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"While expenditure has been approved, the exact cost will be determined through the request for proposal and tendering process."
McDouall said there's a need to weigh up the pros and cons if parking meters were changed.
"The fact that there are inconsistent types of meters in the CBD has always been a concern but equally I'm pretty reluctant, unless there's a really good business case, to go to the cat's eye type parks like they have in Wellington and Palmerston North," he said.
The "cat's eye" method still requires motorists to pay for parking via coins, cards or through their smartphone, however a small round sensor is placed on each individual park that relays information to a parking officer if the car park has expired.
"What we've got to do is to see what's the most cost-effective method, we don't use parking as a revenue gatherer at all, so essentially it's just to enhance access to the CBD and to encourage people to maybe use the bus, walk or cycle as well.
"To have consistency with metering would be good, but if that's going to cost tens of thousands of dollars then we'd have to look very carefully at how that would be recovered and what the benefits are."
McDouall said he kept a few coins in his car to cover the small cost of parking and thought many Whanganui residents would do the same.
"It's so inexpensive in Whanganui, I was in Wellington recently and it cost me $8 for two hours and I was still probably 2km from the CBD," he said.
"It's pretty cost effective here but also we've got to look at the age of some of those machines, I think some of the ones on Victoria Ave are getting pretty haggard."
Word on the street:
Bridget Rison said having machines that only take coins is a bit outdated.
"Out-of-towners find it really hard, my sister and her family live in Wellington and they come up and they've got no coins because you don't need them for anything else apart from Whanganui parking meters."
Robyn Szabo said she's happy with the current system.
"I don't have a problem with it really and I've never done parking through my phone, I suppose I could work it out but I'd rather just stick coins in."
Phil Cornish said he would like to see other payment methods available for parking.
"Meters that can take cards would be a jolly good idea, update them and get them modernised."
Sarah Head is another who wants to see the machines updated and other payments accepted.
"It would be cool if they could take cards, it'd be less finicky and it'd definitely be easier."
Sonny Maraku keeps coins in his car for parking and rated Whanganui's parking meters better than those in Palmerston North and Levin.
"With cards I guess it's easier because you've got access with two things, but I like how it is now."
Mariko Marshall is interested in alternative ways of paying for parking.
"Eftpos or credit card would be better and easier because I don't have coins all the time. A voucher system for three or four-hour parking would be good too."
A council survey on parking will be released to the public shortly, with the results to help council determine requirements of the upgrade.
The upgrade is expected to begin early next year and be funded from meter revenue surpluses.