Little change in future of parking payments
07:46 PM CDT on Saturday, July 23, 2005
No cash? No problem.
The future of parking meters, parking spots and parking tickets in the city of Dallas is slowly moving from a world of cash payments to an electronic universe. In a few months, Dallas will unveil its first electronic payment boxes for city-owned parking lots under Woodall Rodgers Freeway in the West End and under Interstate 45/Spur 345 beside Deep Ellum. Motorists a little short on green but flush with plastic will be able to swipe their credit cards to pay the $2 weekday or $5 night and weekend fees for those lots.
The news gets even better. The city also is planning for the replacement of those clunky on-street parking meters with less intrusive technology in the next few years. "That starts to open up lots of possibilities for us," said John Brunk, Dallas' assistant director of public works and transportation. "It allows the use of credit cards, it will open up the look of the streets, and it will be easier to enforce."
Parking is becoming big business in Dallas. The city receives about $8 million a year in meter and parking space revenue, as well as parking ticket payments. Dallas has had a form of electronic payment for parking meters for some time, but officials did not promote it. Motorists who expect to use parking meters regularly can purchase a cash key at the city's parking services office at 1200 Ross Ave. The cash key acts as a debit card. It stores a set amount of money, and then a preset amount is transferred from the card to the parking meter every time it is run through a special slot in the meter. The card can be recharged at the parking office once it is empty. "People who are regulars to downtown have found their way to use them," Mr. Brunk said.
The future, however, is in multispace parking meters. City officials ultimately will have to make a decision between "pay and display" parking meters and multispace parking meters for the 4,500 pay spaces it operates. Both will accept credit cards, but each has other benefits and drawbacks, Mr. Brunk said. The pay and display meters usually handle about eight parking spaces each, but they require motorists to insert cash to receive a time- and date-stamped receipt that motorists must then place on their vehicle's dashboard. Multispace meters allow motorists to park in a numbered spot and make a payment at a single electronic box, which is easier for meter inspectors to monitor.
On the other end of the parking meter spectrum, the city also is making it easier for motorists with parking tickets to pay electronically. Dallas has changed vendors to process tickets, hopefully making it more reliable for motorists to go to www.dallascity hall.com or call 1-866-247-1951 and take care of their tickets. Previously, copies of some tickets had to be shipped to California to be entered electronically. The new vendor is a local company that won't have to worry about logistics in handling the demand for quick data entry, Mr. Brunk said.