First Walnut Creek parking garage begins automated transformation Monday

Installation of an automated parking pay system begins Monday at the city-owned Broadway and Cypress Street garage downtown.
Electronic pay stations will replace human garage attendants, and yellow parking tokens embedded with computer chips will replace the current paper tickets. Pay stations will allow drivers to pay for their parking with cash, coins or credit before they drive out of the garage.

This system will not affect the private free parking garages operating downtown, but does affect how parking costs are charged at the three city-owned garages.

Here's how the automated pay stations will work: When a driver enters one of the garages, he or she will take a yellow plastic parking token from an entry machine. The driver then parks, takes a token with them and tends to their business in Walnut Creek. Businesses will validate customers' parking simply by scanning the tokens, about the size of a poker chip and stamped with Walnut Creek's tree logo.

Upon returning to the garage, the driver will go to the pay station, insert the token and pay the fee; any validations will then be calculated. Upon leaving the garage, the driver enters the token in an exit machine.

To avoid the whole token system, drivers have another choice swiping a credit card to enter and exiting the garage.

Councilman Kish Rajan, who heads the city's parking task force, said the automation will make the garages "simpler and more

Installation at the Broadway garage starts Monday and will take about two weeks. The city's other two garages, on North and South Locust Street, will go fully automatic by April.

As each garage becomes automatic it will start to be open 24 hours a day. Because of all the changes, there needed to be tweaks to the city's garage rates. Hourly parking in the garages is, and will remain, 50 cents an hour. The City Council agreed Tuesday to ditch the current $3 daily maximum fee. Also gone is a $2 flat rate fee after 6 p.m. since the garages never close, drivers will continue to accrue the cost the entire time they are parked. There will also no longer be a $10 overnight fee or a $20, second overnight fee.

The price for a lost token will be $12. The reason for the high cost of a lost token is to discourage people from taking them or parking for longer and not using the token, said Matt Huffaker, business manager in the city's public services department.

To help people learn the ropes of the new system, "parking ambassadors" will be at the garages during the first few months answering questions and showing people how to use the machines, Huffaker said.

The automated system will cost $216,000 a year, the same amount the city will save annually by using it. Because the lease of the new equipment will be paid off in five years, it's expected the equipment could actually save the city about $1 million over 10 years.

Huffaker said the city "will always have customer service personnel available" 24-hours a day.
City of Walnut Creek
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