Reporting Larry Richert
PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – Coin-operated parking meters are going the way of the dodo bird and phone booths, as the City of Pittsburgh replaces them with fancy new parking machines. These solar-powered wonders allow you to pay with coins or a credit card, and promise efficiency and savings for the Parking Authority.
But is the cost to replace the old meters with machines worth it? And how are people responding to them?
KDKA-AM’s Larry and John talked to David Onorato, head of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, about the ins and outs of these new machines. Phase one, which installed 555 of them throughout the city, has so far proved to be successful.
“We have seen an increase in gross revenues,” says Onorato. “The last one was installed in mid-December, so we only have a small comparison with the first quarter of 2013 to 2012.”
The new multi-parking space machines allow you to pay with a credit card, and you can select how much time you need. One of the perils of using a credit card is that there’s a minimum you have to pay, sometimes an hour or two hours. On old meter machines, if you overpaid, the next person benefited from the time left, but the new machines track your parking by your license plate.
So, if you pay for an hour but stay for 15 minutes, what happens to your 45 minutes? It turns out, there’s a great benefit to the new system.
“When the parker leaves his space and stays within the same district, he can carry that time with him because it’s with his plate,” says Onorato.
So, if you’re parked on one end of East Carson Street, and then move your car to another end of East Carson Street, and still have time credited to your license plate, what ever time you have left is still active.
Also, you can pay at any parking machine near your car, whether it is two spaces away, across the street, or a block away.
So with all of this technology, what happens to the metermaids?
“Their job stays the same, but has changed a little,” says Onorato. “Instead of looking at the meters and checking if they expired, they now enter plates into their handhelds and it indicates if it’s paid, unpaid, or expired.”
By mid-summer, the city will have installed an additional 350 machines, which will bring the total of machine-operated spots to 80 to 90 percent of metered spots.
And, Pittsburgh has another first to be proud of- we will be the first city in the U.S. to have this technology.