Local company markets swipe-card to U.S. cities

HAMPTON FALLS - For select cities across the country, change is in the air, but not in parking meters, thanks to new technology developed by local business owner John Regan.
Regan is co-founder and CEO of Parxcmart, a Hampton Falls-based company specializing in smart card payment plans. Although primarily used at parking meters, the card can also be used at participating retailers to pay for a variety of items like books, coffee and newspapers. Consumers can receive club-card benefits with purchases made with the card as well.

"It works because both the city and businesses profit from the exchange," Regan said. "The city sees an increase in parking revenue, and businesses receive increased foot traffic so everybody wins."

While the card looks like old news, it’s the technology inside the card that the company says is the real innovation, Regan explained. Currently, credit and debit cards use a magnetic storage system that gives information to the point of purchase device that then sends that information to a remote server. Parcxmart’s cards instead contain a microchip that make purchases without connecting to a distant bank computer.

The Hobart College graduate received the inspiration for Parcxmart after learning about the estimated $7 billion a year coin-parking industry. Regan then put his experience with the electronic payment industry to work, eventually founding the company in August 2003.

Private angel investors, including several from the Seacoast area, invested around $2 million in Parcxsmart. The company used these funds to jump-start research and development allowing them to sign their first two cities in 2004.

The biggest challenge for Parcxmart so far has been convincing more municipalities to adopt the system.

"Cities are always (adverse to taking risks), but they start to warm up to the idea after showing them that they can add the Parcxmart technology as part of their normal parking meter replacement plans," Regan said. "It also doesn’t hurt that the new meters also pay for themselves after six months."

New Haven, Conn., was one of the first cities to adopt the technology starting April 2005. Parcxmart plans on expanding into 10 other cities due in large part to New Haven’s favorable reaction to the program.

"People here were excited from day one," said Paul Wessel, New Haven’s Department of Traffic and Parking director. "So far we’ve received only two complaints about the system."

Wessel was introduced to Parcxmart after attending a trade show in New Orleans. He then convinced city officials to implement a 500-meter pilot program. Wessel has remained a large supporter of the company ever since.

"Parcxmart has risen to every challenge so far. Overall their performance has been stellar. I wish I could say the same about some of the other private parking companies," he said.

New Haven receives 90 percent of prepaid parking revenue with the remaining 10 percent going to Parcxmart. Before the program, the city received 62 percent of parking dollars. This change in revenue could save New Haven taxpayers more than $250,000 a year according to Wessel.

More than 1,000 cards have been issued in New Haven so far with the city looking into expanding the card into a form of municipal ID. The city will continue to add Parcxmart meters as part as its normal meter replacement program.

The program is also being tested in San Jose, Calif. Merchants in the city’s Chinatown have signed up for card use and on-street meter parking is planned for this fall.

As for Parcxmart’s future, the company is in the process of talking with vending-machine companies and transportation officials regarding smart-card use in those industries. In addition, Parcxmart hopes that as more cities sign on, demand for their product will climb higher.

"Our goal is to have other neighboring cities adopt the Parcxmart system, so that over time there will be a convenient alternative for commuters and local travelers wherever they drive," Regan said.

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