Parking management firms faced with lots of parking-fine laggards

Parking a vehicle can elicit a wide range of positive emotions. We can experience the joy of turning into a street at the exact moment a parked car is leaving. There is also the elation of noticing that the parking meter still has enough money for an hour when it will probably take you 20 minutes to run your errand.

There can also be negative connotations. Three in five Canadians (61%) told Research Co.earlier this year that they witnessed a car taking up two or more spots in a parking lot – a trait that was more prevalent in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Still, few things are as frustrating as coming back to a vehicle to notice a parking ticket on the windshield.

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Over the past few years, parking enforcement has changed dramatically in Metro Vancouver. Many streets that were devoid of parking meters for decades suddenly became places where residents had to pay to park. Technology has played a role as well, with several phone apps allowing drivers to pay for parking on streets and lots without much hassle.

Last month, Research Co. asked Metro Vancouverites who drive a vehicle to school or work about the current state of parking in their municipality. The results show that drivers are not markedly happy with their options.

In the survey, four in five drivers in Metro Vancouver (81%) believe that finding a parking spot is “moderately harder” or “much harder” in their municipality than it was five years ago. Only 8% of drivers – fewer than one in 10 – think the situation is easier now.

Having a tougher time finding a parking spot may lead residents to take risks, maybe deciding not to pay for their spot. Others have made the wrong calculation when it comes to the time they will need to pay for.

About seven in 10 Metro Vancouver drivers (69%) claim to have not received a parking ticket over the past two years. The differences among ages and genders are almost insignificant. The discrepancy lies in the way those who have been fined have reacted to the situation.

There are two types of parking tickets in Metro Vancouver: the ones issued by municipalities (usually on streets) and the ones issued by parking management companies (usually in lots). Twenty per cent of drivers in the region say they have received a parking ticket from a management company in the past two years, and a similar proportion (18%) have received one from a municipality.

The behaviour of drivers changes dramatically depending on who is issuing the fine. Three in four drivers who were recently ticketed by a municipality (76%) say they paid quickly and benefited from a discount, while 11% admitted to paying the fine days later and with no discount.

The proportion of drivers in Metro Vancouver who say they never paid the last parking ticket issued by a municipality is 13%. Men are slightly more likely to acknowledge ignoring these fines than are women (15% versus 11%).

Regionally, drivers in the city of Surrey seem to be significantly better at paying municipality-issued fines (only 6% did not pay their last ticket) than are drivers in other areas (14% in the city of Vancouver and 16% in the remaining Metro Vancouver municipalities).

Middle-aged Metro Vancouverites are particularly disrespectful of regulations. While only 8% of drivers aged 18 to 34 and 7% of drivers aged 55 and over say they did not pay their last municipality-issued parking ticket, the proportion jumps to 24% among those aged 35 to 54. Generation X, it seems, is more likely to not care.

The level of respect plummets when it comes to tickets issued by parking management companies. Only 51% of Metro Vancouver drivers who got one say they paid the fine quickly – a 25-point difference from what is observed with municipalities – and 15% finally paid after a few days.

But the drastic change comes in the 34% of drivers who say they never paid their last management company ticket. This time, men are decidedly more likely to ignore the fine than are women (40% versus 27%), but generation X is – once again – a laggard.

Just under three in 10 drivers aged 18 to 34 (26%) and 55 and over (28%) say they did not pay their last parking ticket issued by a management company. Among drivers aged 35 to 54, the proportion balloons to 47%. Simply put, practically half of the tickets issued by management companies to generation X drivers go unpaid. Perhaps the angst-filled lyrics of the early 1990s have caught up with our generation. •

Mario Canseco is the president of Research Co.

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