No Cash To Park? Charge It

Patrick Driscoll reports for the San Antonio Express-News on a pilot project by Parkeon Corp. that installs new parking pay stations that accept credit cards and coins as a replacement for parking meters.

City Councilman Roger O. Flores, who unveiled the system Wednesday, said it's as safe as sticking a credit card into a gas pump.

"It's really about time that we use more creative and innovative ways to charge people for parking," he said.

The machines print out receipts stamped with expiration times, which motorists place on their dashboards. Drivers can park at any street meter and move to other locations using the same receipt.

Five of the solar-powered, dark-green machines, standing about 6 feet, were placed on the 600 and 700 blocks of Dolorosa, the 200 block of North Flores and the block in front of the Bexar County Courthouse.

They replaced 34 meters — anyone with a receipt can park anywhere on those blocks as well as in front of regular meters.

The program is a three-month experiment being done by Parkeon Corp. at no cost to the city. If it works out, some or all of the city's 2,000 parking meters soon could be history.

"I can foresee increasing it a lot more," Flores said.

That means the days of digging out coins from under car seats and other dark places could be coming to an end for many motorists.

Since each pay station replaces a lot of meters, the city can save while making it easier for drivers to cough up money. There's also flexibility to vary prices according to parking demands at different times.

"This is a win-win situation for both the city and the customers we serve," said Shawn Eddy, interim director of asset management for the city.

Officials collect $1.3 million in change a year from parking meters, not including revenue from parking tickets.

Parkeon has been installing the systems for three decades, according to its Web site. City officials said the stations are used throughout Europe and in U.S. cities such as Houston, New Orleans, Denver and New York.
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