Technology upgrade could increase city parking revenue

The city's metered parking spaces could become riskier to use without feeding the meters.
The Williamsport Parking Authority is considering a proposal by StreetSmart Technology, a Georgia-based company offering to install technology to increase meter revenue, to motivate more turnover of parking spaces and make it easier for the enforcement staff to do their job.

John Miskell, a StreetSmart account manager based in Wyomissing, gave a sales pitch to the authority and Mayor Gabriel J. Campana Wednesday afternoon.

No commitment was made and no final decision is likely until next year.

However, Miskell said his firm's technology would "pay for itself."

Authority Chairman Anthony Cipolla said StreetSmart's equipment would identify which meters are in use and which have expired.

According to Miskell, other options available include the ability to limit how many times the same meter can be fed without a vehicle being moved and automatic alerts to authority staff when meters are jammed or malfunction.

A potentially touchy issue for those who love finding a parking meter with time still on it is the ability - should the city choose - to wipe off any remaining time whenever a vehicle pulls away from a parking space.

Another potential benefit to downtown visitors with cell phones able to access the Internet is an option that would allow them to locate empty parking spaces, Cipolla added.

Sensors on poles and wires and small monitors embedded under asphalt would transmit data via the Internet to StreetSmart and the authority.

The city has about 2,000 parking spaces on 16 lots and the downtown streets.

There are about 200 metered spaces on lots and about 280 on the streets.

A hand-held device the size of a cell phone would be used by the enforcement employees to pinpoint which meters have expired.

Miskell predicted StreetSmart's services could "maximize revenue without increasing rates" and benefit retailers by increasing the turnover on the city's metered parking spaces.

He also predicted the net revenue to the authority from its parking meters could increase from about $193,000 annually to more than $460,000, minus a $100,800 monitoring fee.

He said StreetSmart is offering a "guaranteed, no-risk contract" and its services and equipment would cost the authority nothing if it failed to make more money.

"If you don't," he promised, "we don't get paid."

Cipolla said there are no plans for an immediate increase in parking meter rates or fines should the city decide to try out the company.

Also guaranteed to stay as a downtown parking feature is the grace period now in place between the time a meter expires and the gauge changes color from green to red.

"The seven-minute grace is going to stay," he promised.

The company has been asked to provide a written proposal and contract for the review of the authority solicitor.

City Administrator William Nichols confirmed that - like the proposed booting ordinance - the proposed enforcement changes would require council approval for all meters on city streets.

Campana said his administration temporarily is delaying the booting ordinance to allow the authority to "boot" vehicles with excess unpaid parking tickets while parked on city streets.

There were reports it might be on this coming Tuesday's council agenda, but he said it will go to city council - at the earliest- at the first meeting in December.
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