New smart meters unveiled Monday in York City will curb common complaints from consumers and the downtown business community, local leaders said.
Parking is the number one concern among businesses downtown, even though the city doesn't have a parking problem, said Sonia Huntzinger, executive director of Downtown Inc.
"There's a perception of a parking problem, and that keeps people away," she said. "But there's not a dearth of parking in York. There's plenty of parking here."
Parking downtown will be easier now with the installation of 214 smart meters strategically located throughout the core of the city's business district, city leaders said.
The new meters, which accept both credit cards and coins, will "serve customers in a very business-friendly and customer-friendly manner," said Leonardo McClarty, York City's director of Economic and Community Development.
"We want to drive business," he said.
Customers aren't able to enjoy their shopping experience downtown if they have to worry about putting change in the meter, McClarty said.
The cost: The new meters are also expected to yield a 20 percent increase in the city's parking revenue, according to Cheryl Rascoe, deputy business administrator for parking.
While rates will stay the same, the city is expecting more downtown visitors who will pay for their parking time, she said.
Users will only pay for their parking time. The York City General Authority is absorbing the credit card transaction fee.
Overall, the city has paid about $250,000 for the 214 meters. The cost was included in the current budget.
Not only are the meters designed to offer a convenience to customers, they may also help the city's parking officers enforce an ordinance.
When motorists use a credit card at the new meters, it will be easier to track which cars are following the city's two-hour parking rule, in which a car is only supposed to occupy a space for two hours during weekday business hours.
With credit card usage, the new meters will also alert parking enforcement officers to delinquent meters because they will have a better idea of where to look, Rascoe said.
The new meters aren't expected to create a demand for more meter checkers. The city is expected to maintain its headcount of five, full-time parking enforcement officers, she said.
Using them: To use the new meters, the motorist simply needs to use coins or insert a credit or debit card, decide how much time to load onto the meter and wait while the machine authorizes the card, Rascoe said.
If a user pays for more time than they need with coins or a credit card, they don't get a refund. But the next person who pulls into the space may already have time on the meter.
A pay-by-phone option may be included as an upgrade to the new meters, but that would have to be approved in the 2015 budget, Rascoe said.
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