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Brookline adds retail allure to a parking card

Brookline shoppers this fall will be able to use high-tech debit cards that protect against identity theft.
The town plans to launch a program by October that will allow consumers to use the debit cards, which feature electronic chips that do not contain their personal information, for all parking meters and in many stores in Brookline. While the magnetic stripes on traditional debit cards hold things such as a consumers Social Security number, the new cards contain only such information as the debit card number, previous transactions, and the consumers e-mail address.

Town officials are hoping the new cards will do more than protect against identity theft: Since consumers will need to walk into certain Brookline stores to purchase and reload their debit cards, officials hope that their use also will spur business in the area. Brooklines acting town administrator, Sean Cronin, said he expects most of Brooklines 542 stores to participate.

This whole plan should benefit the town budget, it should benefit the merchants, and it should benefit the ultimate end user of the card the one looking to park and buy something in the store, he said.

Brookline decided to launch the program because its old debit card system for parking has become out of date, Cronin said, and the town ran out of those cards around March. Brookline has allowed residents to use white town-issued debit cards for parking at meters since 2002. But residents have had to reload that card at the Brookline Village police station, using a machine that worked only when it wanted to, Cronin said.

John J. Regan, chief executive of PXT Payments Inc. in Hampton Falls, N.H., which is implementing the new program, said consumers will be able to use the next debit card at any stores that decide to participate in the program. He also said stores are encouraged to offer rewards programs through the card.

In addition to being more convenient for consumers, the program will make it easier for the town to increase parking rates, because price hikes would otherwise require someone to put a lot more coins into the system than they typically carry, Regan said.

Cronin declined to comment about possible meter rate increases.

PXT Payments has had discussions with officials in Boston, Newton, and Wellesley, Regan said, and the company hopes to expand its program across the Boston metropolitan area starting next spring. PXT Payments already has implemented similar programs in New Haven, West Hartford, Conn., Bridgeport, Conn., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Kama Cicero, 39, a real estate agent who works in Brookline, said she believes the program will make parking easier in the town. I have [the old card], but I never recharge it because its always a pain to get up there, she said of going to the police station. I never have change. I always am getting parking tickets.

But Saskia Epstein, 36, executive director of the nonprofit organization Room to Grow, disagreed. It doesnt really solve the parking issue in Brookline, does it? Epstein said. I think the main issue in Brookline is availability of parking.
PXT Payments
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