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Modern Parking Meters

Technology Helps
Solve An Old Problem

Jay A. Gillian
By Jay A Gillian
Mayor, Ocean City
modern parking meter
Thanks to a city employee who experienced a new technology while travelling, the city considered switching to solar-powered parking meters that accept both coins and credit cards.

As a city with over half of a million visitors every summer, Ocean City understands the trials and tribulations that come along with a substantial seasonal population influx. Every family flocks to the beach with their sunscreen, umbrellas, beach coolers, and more significantly to the city—their car. With both the downtown and beach areas bustling, the city is working to make parking, and paying for parking, easier. Specifically, we are offering multiple payment options in a familiar and convenient format.

Ocean City’s vibrant downtown is fundamental to the community’s identity and success. Parking along or near the main business district of Asbury Avenue requires easy access for payment, time limits that allow for shopping (but also encourage turnover), and rates ($0.25/hour) that do not discourage shoppers from spending at local businesses.

Our beach parking plan follows much of the same philosophy, but with higher rates ($1.00/hour), which make payment with coins not only more challenging for the motorist, but for local merchants who are continually canvassed for change to feed the meters. In addition, higher rates at the beach meant more coins for city employees to collect, adding to their already lengthy day.

A solution was needed. Thanks to a city employee who experienced a new technology while travelling, the city considered switching to solar-powered parking meters that accept both coins and credit cards.

Frank Donato, Director of Financial Management for Ocean City was aware of the efforts of other shore communities to tackle their parking issues and had tried multi-space meters to offer additional payment options to the parking public. Although the multi-space kiosks had given motorists multiple payment options, the meters often experienced communication failures when credit cards were presented for payment. The city has now found newer, more efficient technology with IPS Group, a San Diego based telecommunications and parking company.

Ocean City was offered a risk-free trial during the summer season of the solar-powered, single space parking meters, which accept both coin and credit/debit card payment. The city is now trialing 57 meters on Ocean Avenue and 12 on one block of Asbury Avenue as part of the evaluation process.

digital display on the parking meter

Ocean City was offered a risk-free trial during the summer season of the solar-powered, single space parking meters, which accept both coin and credit/debit card payment.

The trial along Ocean Avenue has been readily accepted by the beach parkers and local merchants alike. Motorists without change can now easily pay for parking with their credit cards. This has eliminated the fear of parking first, then running up onto the boardwalk, standing in line at a concession to wait for change and then dashing back to the car with the hope that parking enforcement had not yet arrived. Merchants along Ocean Avenue gave a collective sigh of relief and hotel operators where happy to be able to focus on property management, without frequent requests for change.

After seeing the results of the trial, the city converted 15 spaces in front of the Post Office on Ocean Avenue from free all day to free until 5:00 pm (when the post office closes). After 5:00 pm the spaces now require payment (the same as those on the rest of the street). The meters installed here are under a rental agreement for $1.00/day through the end of the summer parking season, when the city will return the meters to the vendor.

The new meters are reliable, we’ve received many positive comments from users, and parking revenues have increased. Ocean City traditionally removes the meter mechanisms from the housings, performs maintenance and stores the mechanisms over the winter months. With the success of the trial and rental programs, Ocean City is now looking towards next season and evaluating expansion of the rental program.

Other benefits of the new meters include automated meter collection audit reporting, information on usage, real-time maintenance alerts and the ability to program new rates or messages to the meters individually or in groups remotely.

Ocean City is poised to enjoy a hassle-free summer with the adoption of the new solar-powered, credit card meters. We encourage other towns to consider updating their parking meters.

 

First Published in New Jersey Municipalities, Volume 90, Number 1, January 2013

 

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