BARRIE, ONT. -- Where, how, and what residents pay for parking is about to change in Barrie, after councillors tentatively approved a new parking strategy at General Committee Monday night.

The extensive strategy is meant to carry the city through to 2041 and includes everything from fee increases, to new technology, to a shuttle service. It consists of a new app that is in the works and the ability for residents to buy digital parking passes.

“You know, the introduction of a parking app, digital passes, licence plate technology… we’re finally, sort of, getting with the times,” said Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman on Monday night.

Tessa Williams, a transit and parking analyst with the City of Barrie, said they found most residents find it hard to find and to pay for parking downtown.

“This is actually a bigger barrier than the cost of parking itself,” she said.

But, Williams explained, city lots downtown are only ever 50 per cent full. The problem is that most people are parking in the same areas, making it feel like there is less parking than there is.

The city’s goal now is to shift where people park and reduce demand on busy lots instead of building more parking.

Some plans include raising the price of parking in popular areas like the waterfront and having cheaper rates at lots that are less popular, like the Collier Street parkade, to encourage people to park there.

The city also plans to launch a pilot shuttle service, which would take people from downtown to the waterfront.

After extensive overcrowding at the waterfront over the summer, the strategy also includes the increased rates for non-residents, which was approved during the summer.  Prices rose from $3 an hour and $20 a day to $10 an hour and $50 a day.

The separate pricing for non-residents drew criticism from Premier Doug Ford at the time, but on Monday night Mayor Jeff Lehman said he stands by the rates.

“It actually turned out fairly well, and I think it was a good move,” he said.

Other rate increases include $0.25 more per hour downtown.

The city will also charge for parking on weekends near The Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, and rates will jump from $2 an hour to $5 an hour. The cost of parking at the hospital-owned lots is currently $6.50 an hour.

The city also plans to explore the possibility of introducing parking fees in the evening downtown but won’t make any decisions until next year.

The changes will roll out at different times, but the new pricing comes into effect in January 2021 if Barrie City Council gives the strategy a final vote of approval next week.