Friday, June 21, 2013

City Parking Lot Goes Back to Meters After Box Fails to Please

By Christina Georgiou

The parking payment kiosk at Easton's South Third Street
municipal parking lot is covered and awaits removal after
drawing complaints from the public. Individual smart
meters have replaced the unpopular payment station system.
The city parking lot on the east side of South Third Street has gone back to using individual meters for each of its 22 parking spots after the new box to administer the whole lot failed to impress parkers.

The box, which accepted credit and debit cards, as well as cash, and produced a printed receipt that patrons were require to display as proof of payment on their cars, had been installed for a two-month trial period and will go back to the manufacturer, said City Administrator Glenn Steckman.

"We were getting mixed reviews," he said, adding that complaints included people not liking the inconvenience of having to walk back to their cars, opining the system was complicated and confusing, that the machine was difficult to read, and that the machine was slow to process card payments and generate the required receipt.

"From my personal standpoint, I think the boxes are more efficient for the city, but we listened to what our customers were saying," Steckman said.

He estimated the single payment station would have saved the city about $1,000 annually in operating costs over smart meters that accept card payments, which is what has replaced the unpopular box.

Removing the parking payment station won't cost the city more, as the money that would have been spent on its purchase was reallocated by city council to pay for the new smart meters in that location, and the box had been installed on a trial basis offer from the company that offers it.

"We leased it (on a trial basis) at a very, very low rate," Steckman said.

The city administrator added the city may try out the single payment station method again at other municipal lot locations in the future, but those will probably not be from the same company that produced the one being removed.

Where the system might be tried again is undetermined, though it's possible one could appear next year at the city's new 20-spot lot on North Fourth Street.

That lot, which has long term, 10-hour parking limit, is planned this year to have individual meters that only accept quarters. City officials have cited the costs of card-accepting smart meters as being a barrier to their immediate implemenation at the new lot.

Steckman said the solar-powered new smart meters, which also accept all denominations of silver coins, cost $495 apiece, versus the quarter-only meters, which cost $180 each.

The city's new lot may eventually get a more versatile payment system though, whether another payment station trial or card-accepting smart meters. It depends on the amount of revenue the new lot generates and if the city determines it to be cost-effective, the city administrator said, adding that since the location is new, it's too early to tell.

"We need to look at the whole year, not just a couple of months," he said.

The new smart meters were installed earlier this year, coincident with a rise rates for curbside metered parking from 50 cents to one dollar per hour.

The rate of parking in the city's parking deck has not changed, and the city is offering discounted evening rates in the deck as well in an effort to encourage locals and employees to park there more frequently during peak city visiting hours.

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