Parking

Halifax considers using parking meters to fundraise for charity

'Kindness meters' would accept donations for groups via the United Way

Parking meters outside City Hall.   Josh Young

Parking meters may not be kind to your wallet, but they may end up helping others.

On March 23, Halifax Regional Municipality’s community planning and economic development standing committee passed a motion for regional council to start the process of getting pay meters that can accept money for parking and charity. These meters are known as kindness meters.

“A part of our strategic priorities are to community health and wellness,” Coun. Lindell Smith said during a interview. “I just think this is a way we can use new technology to support community organizations.”

At the meeting, they used an example of paying at a restaurant to explain how the meters would work. When paying for food at a restaurant, customers are given the option of leaving a tip. These meters would let drivers pay for parking, but there would be an option to donate money to charity too.

The committee wants regional council to work with United Way on this project. The plan is to send the money from the kindness meters to United Way, which would give it to its partner organizations.

Sara Napier, president and CEO of United Way, is interested in working with the municipality on this project. There are no decisions yet on where the money raised by the kindness meters would go, but Napier has a few ideas.

“In theory, we would like to see them going to programs that will be supporting people living on the edge of poverty,” Napier said in an interview.

“Whether it is a fund for more affordable housing, for shelters, for warming centres or for food, and it can also be used ultimately to contribute to what we are working now with the city, which is a city-wide anti-poverty strategy that will look at more solutions for systemic issues that have to be addressed.”

Truro is currently the only municipality in Nova Scotia with kindness meters. That municipality implemented them in December 2015 and raised $2,000 in the first year. The money goes to the Colchester Christmas Index Program, The Salvation Army’s Community Café and ElderDog Canada.

According to the background information contained in the motion, this system would be similar to the Calgary Parking Authority’s Road Home program, where Calgarians can donate to either the Calgary Food Bank or the Calgary Homeless Foundation. HRM expects to make $15,00 to $30,000 a year based on Calgary’s program. However, the Calgary Parking Authority told The Signal that it has raised $12,000 since the program began in 2012.

In Calgary, drivers can donate through debit and credit at the meters, or by phone. This is technology HRM would consider.

“My thought is if we use our new meters there is more we can do with it,” said Smith. “Using the new systems opens more possibilities of being able to get more revenue for community organizations.”

Kindness meters were tried in Peterborough, Ont., but the money dropped off after the first month. The program was started in September 2011 and in the first month they raised $365.55, but in the four months after that they raised $166.65.

‘Great idea’

Chris and Maria Lohnes, two drivers in Halifax, think the project could work.

“Honestly, it sounds like a great idea,” said Maria Lohnes. “Anytime you can get someone to add a little bit of change it makes it a lot easier instead of having people go out of their way to donate to charity.”

Chris Lohnes said he thinks Haligonians will consistently donate to the meters.

“I’m pretty sure people will keep them up. All you have to do is drive down here (Spring Garden Road) anytime of the day and there is people at the meters. If there is no set donation I think people will be reasonable.”

If regional council approves the idea, the meters should be ready by the summer of 2018.