Albany's tech-savvy meters: multilingual, credit-card friendly

New machines in Albany take credit cards, have foreign language options
albany meter.jpgYou will be able to use your credit or debit card to pay for some parking meters in downtown Albany starting Wednesday.

The new, solar-powered meters also will extend the time people can spend in a space from two to 10 hours, but it will get more expensive for a longer stay. Rather than a meter for every parking space, there will be one for every 10 spaces or so.

The new technology is being implemented on State Street between Broadway and Eagle Street, and it will enable 116 meters to be replaced by a dozen. It allows motorists to get directions for using the meter in English, Spanish, French and German. Those parking will also be able to pay with nickels, dimes, quarters and dollar coins.

It does have one downside for commuters: no more piggybacking on time left on the meter by someone else.

If successful, the new meters will be installed elsewhere downtown, said Michael Klein, executive director of the Albany Parking Authority.

"It's so convenient for people to use a credit card instead of coins," Klein said. "Many times people have contacted the Albany Parking Authority and said they have a concern that two hours is just not enough time."

The old meters allowed people to park for up to two hours at a total cost of $1.25. The new system will enable people to park for 10 hours. While the rate for the first two hours will remain the same, the rate will increase 25 cents an hour for any additional time.

Unlike the mechanical meters, the new ones will also track what time the person pays.

Drivers aren't required to pay for parking until 8 a.m., Klein said. Under the old system, someone arriving for a 7:30 a.m. meeting that lasts two hours would drop coins in the meter. They would then be charged for the first half hour, when they aren't required to pay, and have their meter run out before their meeting ended.

Under the new system, a person who pays at 7:30 a.m. won't start being billed until 8 a.m.

The new machines will also print a receipt, which drivers are to display on the passenger side of their front window with the time stamp facing up.

People parking on State Street on Tuesday liked the changes.

Mark Call of Selkirk said he has sometimes had to park his car, then make a mad dash to find quarters before he is ticketed.

"I think it's a great idea. I often come down here and don't have quarters," he said. "I'm constantly going into the bank to get a roll of quarters."

Kylie Nunziato of Albany said allowing people to park for more than two hours is a needed change.

"People who have jobs coming out every two hours is ridiculous," she said.

Her boyfriend, Josh Crowfut, of Albany said he's glad the machine will still take coins because the credit card fees would wipe out earnings from people who pay for a few quarters' worth of parking.

The new meters are being paid for by the parking authority, not the city of Albany, Klein said. The effort is costing $120,000.

"I want to see what feedback we get from our customers," he said. "If people like what we've done, we'll be looking at expanding it."
Albany Parking Authority
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