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In parking hot spots, Somerville to offer pay with plastic

Coin-strapped motorists parking in some parts of the city this summer can chose to pay with plastic, thanks to a three-month trial of new electronic meters, the city said.
The 90-day customer service experiment will begin in early May and usher the installation of 40 high-tech single-space meters in Davis Square and parts of Union Square, where parking demand is highest, the city said in a statement. Once installed, users are encouraged to submit feedback on the Traffic and Parking website.
The new meters will continue to accept coins and parking cards, the city said. If the credic card use proves popular, officials may explore installing them citywide, said Jacklyn Rossetti, city spokeswoman, in an e-mail. 
"The new meters are one more way in which we are seeking to ensure that our residents and businesses receive the best possible customer service," said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone in the statement.
"Not only will the new meters provide additional payment options, but they use green technology, and are easier to maintain," said Curtatone.
Other communities nationwide have seen "dramatic" increases in customer satisfaction, while parking tickets and appeals have declined, he added. 
Somerville's test follows a similar program in downtown Boston, where 144 of the single-space meters were installed March 7 for a three-month run. 
The California-based company that makes the meters will provide them free for the trial period, according to Rossetti.
The meter heads, which affix to the base of the existing equipment, are a sleek gray with a blinking LED light facing the street, according to images on the website of San Diego-based IPS Group Inc., which manufactures them.
By measuring capacity and turnover rates in addition to the upgraded meters' income, Rossetti said parking officials working with the mayor's office and number-crunchers with SomerStat will decide how the program would fare citywide.
"We are always looking for innovative ways to increase customer satisfaction," said Traffic and Parking Acting Director Matthew Dias, in the statement.
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