Recently the CIBC converted their branch at the corner of Grace and College into a new “Banking Centre.” They did away with all the tellers, leaving only an ATM, a bevy of laptop computers scattered among comfortable chairs, and a couple of “advisors” who, apparently, are to educate the locals on computer banking, resolve any issues that arise, and presumably discuss mortgages and other banking services financially helpful to the institution. For decades, this had been my local bank, always handy walking home from the West End Y, and I was devastated.
Truth be told, I only used the branch tellers to get the rolls of loonies and toonies I need for city parking. I’ve never trusted using a credit card for street parking fees. I’ve always worried that after parking the car the kiosk would reject my card or, worse still, would steal the data on the card in some potential scam.
ATMs do not dispense coins. The closest alternative full-service CIBC branch is at Dundas and Ossington. When I went there one morning at opening time, I put my remaining 50 cents into a parking kiosk for the one available parking spot in the area. Anticipating a quick in and out, I found myself in a long line up with no teller. Apparently she was in the washroom. When she finally appeared, she had to deal with a line up of at least ten customers waiting impatiently for her return. More than ten minutes later, she was still dealing with the first in line. Other bank employees aware of the situation chose to ignore it. I made some complaints which, in retrospect, I should have resisted. Soon I had no choice but to abandon my place in the line and rescue my car from any potential early morning green hornet. It was only later that I remembered that the all-pervasive security cameras would have recorded me as an irate customer. Although I am generally known as a patient person, “customer service” like this at our coddled national banks brings out the worst in me.
That very morning, a friend told me about Toronto’s new Green P Parking App. After a couple of false starts during my early experiments with the system, I now fully appreciate the wonder of this new Parking App.
This is how it works. You download the app to your smart phone, enter your email and vehicle licence number to secure your registration, and then look for a parking kiosk on the street or in a Green P parking lot which has a four-digit number prominently displayed on the white decal on the side. The first time you use the system, you will be asked for your credit card information and for a deposit of $20.00. Presumably, when that $20.00 is exhausted, you would authorize another. In the meantime, once you have found a parking spot, you enter the identification number for the nearby kiosk and indicate the vehicle you are parking (or the license number of a second vehicle), and choose the amount of time you want. The app confirms the location and time, deducts the payment, and, if you like, sends a receipt to your email address. Apparently, the paper receipts we used to place on the dashboard are obsolete. Green hornets looking for malingerers will check your licence plate digitally to confirm timely payment.
As an added feature, the app counts down the time, alerts you when time is running out, and gives the option of extending the time digitally from wherever you might be. On a recent shopping trip, I extended twice, for 75 cents each time, from the store where I was happily browsing. I eventually returned to my car secure in the knowledge that there would be no yellow ticket on my windshield. Updated receipts arrived by email.
When I went for dinner one night last week, I found a spot on College Street right beside the restaurant at precisely 6:31 p.m. I pulled out the app expecting to pay until at least 9:00 p.m. But no. The app told me that no parking fee was payable at that hour, and that I should check the signs to be sure. I checked the sign and it was true. Parking was payable 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., prohibited 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., and then presumably parking was free. Pretty slick, I’d say. The app also allows you to type in an address and find the nearest Green P site, renew monthly permits, and pay courtesy charges, although I haven’t yet tested these features.
Best of all from my perspective, I am now liberated from any further need for live contact with any branch of my bank. Maybe forever.