When you plug a parking meter with a coin in Vancouver, you can see how much time is left on the meter and if you leave early, city bylaws allow another driver to park in your spot and use the unused time. Not so with the pay by phone automated system. You can’t see how much time is left and city bylaws dictate that only the licence plate attached to the account can use the time on the meter. Even if you use just a fraction of the time you’ve paid for, a car with a different licence plate cannot piggyback on your unused time. This allows the city to double, even triple dip on meters because drivers are leaving time behind no one else can use.

Even parking enforcement officers don’t know how much time is on the meter when it’s paid by phone. Their device just tells them if the plate linked to the meter is paid.

In total, Vancouver took in more than $60 million in parking fees and fines last year.

But there are other methods being used in other Canadian cities. Calgary’s ParkPlus system allows you to turn off your parking when you’re done by pushing a button on your phone. You only pay for the time you use. Calgary’s app even tells you where to find available stalls and has a Find My Vehicle feature when you can't remember where you parked. And newer meters are being tested that would allow cities to electronically lower and raise meter prices based on demand.

And Calgary isn’t alone. Victoria refunds your unused time if you return early to a parking spot.

Vancouver says it would consider adding features like those used in Calgary and Victoria if it can introduce new options to the pay by phone system. 

“I think we'll be pursuing that option for sure, “says Lon LaClaire, City of Vancouver Strategic Transportation Planning and Engineering Services.