Parking Meter Replacement Project
Questions and Answers
June 29, 2010
What is the timeline for the installation of the new parking meters?
On April 7, 2010, the Board of Commissioners approved seeking bids for new, single-space parking meters. A Request for Proposals (RFP) was released on May 20, 2010 with proposals due on June 18, 2010. A bid award recommendation is anticipated in July/August 2010 and meter installation could begin as soon as November 2010.
2. What payment options will the new meters have?
The specifications approved by the Board of Commissioners and sought in the RFP are for single-space meters that include the ability to accept coins and smartcard payments as well as the capability for future upgrades to accept cell phone payments.
While it is understood that payment by credit card may be convenient, the Township’s study has proven that this capability is not cost efficient at this time. Currently, only one model of single-space meter, the I-P-S parking meter, accepts credit cards. The much higher initial costs for this model are compounded by an annual maintenance and operational cost of approximately $100,000 annually, not including credit card transactions and service fees. Further, a one dollar an hour parking meter rate is recommended by parking meter vendors to make this option financially feasible. This high rate would negatively impact the business districts and is not recommended by Township staff. Parking rates throughout the Township have been fifty cents per hour since 1999.
3. Can smartcards be both disposable and refillable?
In the Township’s proposed plan, the smartcards are refillable. Most vendors have stopped distinguishing between refillable and disposable cards. Because of the technology embedded in each card, they cost $3 each. It is in everyone’s best interest to reload the card as many times as possible. Extensive public education on pricing levels will be necessary to raise awareness and encourage citizens to reload rather than to dispose of the cards.
4. Can smartcards be sold or refilled at locations other than the Township Parking Services Department?
Merchants will be able to purchase pre-filled Smart Cards that they can sell to their customers.
While the Township is not ruling out expanding smartcard refill locations in the future, our initial plan is to implement the program in a manner that is easy to control to ensure its success. Loading machines are expensive; in addition, each smart card loading kit in the Township must be electronically networked. This has both administrative and accounting implications. Staff would not only need to gather the card transactions from every merchant reconciled with their money drawer, but also factor in any discounts or profits merchants may want to incorporate prior to depositing funds. For these reasons, the Township plans to exclusively sell and refill smartcards at the Parking Services Department location. Once demand has been evaluated, the Township will determine if and where self-service machines should be deployed.
5. Will customers have the ability to call in to add funds to their refillable smart card?
This feature is not available. Each card is embedded with a computer chip and the card must be scanned to add money to it.
6. May a smartcard holder obtain a refund of any unused meter time?
Yes. Those who return to their parked car and money remains on the meter, smartcard users will simply insert their card once again. The letters “R-E-F” will indicate that a refund of credit to their card is in process.
7. Could the Township consider using the same smartcards as the City of Philadelphia?
The Township studied this idea and found that implementation would be very difficult, as would auditing the use of the cards to ensure that each jurisdiction receives its proper revenues. Further, if the meters ultimately purchased by the Township are from a different vendor than used by Philadelphia, proprietary mapping information would need to be shared, which is unlikely to be viewed favorably by either vendor. It should also be noted that Philadelphia smartcards are not refillable and do not refund unused meter time back onto the smartcard.
8. Can free time be programmed on the new meters?
The new meters will be equipped with a button to activate free time upon pulling into a parking space. Based on industry standards and an evaluation of lost revenue, in balance with the desires of the business community, staff has recommended setting the free time at a maximum of 10 minutes.
9. Are multi-space meters under consideration?
The input of the Township’s business community was an important component of the Township’s Parking Meter Study, which led to the Parking Services Department’s recommendation that single space meters be purchased. Single space meters are the least costly to purchase and have much lower ongoing operating and maintenance costs compared to multi-space meters. Another advantage to the purchase of single space meters is the ease of use as well as the ability to be integrated with other technology or upgraded in the future to expand capabilities.
10. Will parking meter rates increase?
There are no plans at this time to increase rates. Parking rates throughout the Township have remained at 50 cents per hour since 1999.
11. Will the new meters “zero out” upon vehicle departure?
Meters will not zero out remaining parking time when a vehicle departs. Smartcard holders can retrieve their own unused time on the meter by inserting their card again, which then zeros out the meter and adds the remaining time back onto the smartcard.
12. Could the Township create a new, daily shopping permit that could remain with a vehicle to allow parking in excess of two hours or at multiple locations?
The Parking Services Department is researching this option to determine feasibility and cost.
13. Will the new parking meters be simple and user-friendly?
In the Township’s extensive discussions with the business community, ease of use was mentioned as the most important component sought in the purchase of new meters. This feedback was incorporated in the specifications for new meters, so that they will be user-friendly.
14. Can additional parking signage accompany the new meters?
The Township continues to seek grant funding for more business district/wayfinding signage. Though a Township Parking and Business Directory was developed and is posted on the Township’s website, it is only one component to successfully shift the perception that parking availability is inadequate. The Township will continue to emphasize the availability of parking using the multi-media tools at its disposal.
15. Could the Township consider keeping some parking spaces free of charge at all times?
Free parking spaces would more than likely be taken by early morning rail commuters or store employees than by patrons of the business district.
16. Could special “employee permits” be created to allow parking at long-term parking meters?
The Parking Services Department is working on amending the current 6-month parking lot permit program to make it available for purchase on a monthly and possibly weekly basis. Permit parking spaces are available in many municipal lots.
17. Could employees be allowed to share existing permits?
The feasibility of sharing parking permits is being evaluated.
18. Can more parking permit spaces or more long-term meters be placed closer to businesses?
Existing long-term parking meters are already in fairly close proximity to businesses; however, moving them even closer would decrease turnover of those spaces nearest to businesses, which would be detrimental to patrons.
19. Can early payment of parking tickets be rewarded with a discount?
There is a discount period that begins once a ticket is issued. The lowest parking ticket rate of $20 remains in effect for approximately 25 days. The fee does not go up until 25 days elapse and the ticket becomes a Citation.
The Township’s study of 18 surrounding municipalities showed that none offer a reduced rate for early payment of a ticket. Of the 18 municipalities, 13 increase the fee by adding late fees at varying times.
If a reduced fee were enacted, parking violation revenue would be reduced. Assuming 10% of the approximately 30,000 annual parking meter violations were paid, for example, in a 24 hour period at a $3 reduced rate ($17), the loss of annual revenue would be $9,000. If a $5 reduced rate ($15) were used, the loss would be $15,000.
20. Could unmetered pick-up or drop-off parking spaces at select locations be installed?
Offering some “free time” for pick-up and drop-off purposes by patrons is a key component of the new parking meters now being purchased. While increasing efficiency and encouraging patronage of Township businesses is always a priority, the greatest priority is safety. Areas currently designated “No Parking Anytime” have been recommended by the Township’s Police Department because of safety concerns.
21. Can more “free parking days” be provided?
Free parking days are authorized by the Board of Commissioners, and three such days are currently provided to the Township’s Business Districts each year.
22. Can meter attendants void tickets?
Meter attendants are advised to exercise good judgment before issuing a ticket. However, once a ticket is initiated, it must be completed and cannot be voided by the attendant. Voiding tickets in the field would result in control issues, inconsistency, and accusations of favoritism.
23. Can the Township provide change machines?
Unfortunately, when change machines were provided by the Township many years ago they were regularly subject to vandalism and break-ins and therefore eventually removed.
24. Can the Township provide a “No Ticket Day” in which parkers receive a reminder to pay for their parking meter usage rather than a parking ticket?
A “No Ticket” day is essentially a free parking day. Using existing free parking days to reinforce education about meter usage and avoiding parking tickets is an excellent idea that will be pursued.
25. Could merchants be permitted to purchase or lease long-term public parking spaces on public streets?
No, it is the opinion of the Township Solicitor that merchants can not legally purchase or lease parking spaces on a public street.
26. Are “ambassadors” permitted to feed expired parking meters?
The Township encourages this goodwill initiative.
27. Can the Parking Services Department create an e-mail address and form to be used to contest tickets?
The Township’s goal is always to provide a timely response to inquiries and to that end a Parking Ticket Appeal Form was created approximately a year ago. It can be easily accessed on the Township’s website at www.lowermerion.org for citizens to communicate concerns.