Keep the change: New meters debut
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While officials insist that the city's new parking meter stations will be easy to use, motorists with vanity license plates have a leg-up on everyone else.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and parking authority representatives gathered Thursday on the North Shore to put into service 12 pay stations, the first of 560 that will be installed in a handful of neighborhoods by mid-September.
While the old single-space meters accepted only quarters and were known for jamming, the new multi-space machines, to be placed at intervals along the streets, will accept credit cards as well as quarters. If they break down, they'll electronically notify the parking authority and flash a notice advising customers to pay at another machine.
"This is an exciting day in Pittsburgh," Mr. Ravenstahl said at one of the new stations on Federal Street outside PNC Park. "Gone are the days when people have to carry around bags of quarters to plug our meters."
The days when motorists wandered into North Shore businesses seeking quarters might be gone, too, Jon Wantz, general manager of Dominic's Famous Deli & Bottle Shop at PNC Park, said.
On the other hand, motorists will have to key their license plate numbers into the rectangular, 5-foot-high machines when purchasing time. That means drivers with vanity plates likely will adapt faster than others, said Jeff Nethery, general manager of Florida-based Cale America, the authority's vendor.
When making their rounds, parking enforcement officers will enter plate numbers of parked cars into handheld devices. The so-called pay-by-plate technology will tell them which vehicles have time remaining, said David Onorato, the authority's executive director
In all, the authority paid Cale about $7.3 million for 560 multi-space stations and seven years of maintenance.
About 500 of the machines will be used to replace single-space meters and to create 500 new spaces Downtown and in the North Shore, Oakland, the South Side, the Strip District and Uptown. The rest will be used to replace another type of multi-space machine currently used in Market Square, Downtown; in the Schenley Plaza area of Oakland; and in metered lots throughout the city.
Authority chairwoman Linda Judson said Pittsburgh is the first to use pay-by-plate technology on a wide scale. "It's cutting-edge," Mr. Ravenstahl said.
As the machines are rolled out in each neighborhood, Cale will deploy a team of neon-clad "meter greeters" to answer questions and provide help. But officials said the machines are user-friendly, with on-screen prompts for entering plate numbers, purchasing an amount of time and getting a receipt.
The 12 machines on the North Shore -- placed on streets around the ballpark -- replaced more than 90 single-space meters.
Quarter-only meters have been a growing aggravation to motorists since Pittsburgh City Council passed a five-year series of meter rate increases in December 2010. An hour's time on the North Shore now costs $2, up from 50 cents in December 2010.
If the council had approved Mr. Ravenstahl's proposed 50-year lease of meters and garages to private investors in 2010, it would have been the investors' responsibility to upgrade meter technology. Mr. Ravenstahl proposed the lease to generate money for the pension fund. Council voted down the lease and enacted the meter rate increases as an indirect part of its own pension bailout plan.
On Thursday, Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, who is also a parking authority member, said she is pleased that the city is able to modernize the meters without taking what she considered the risky step of sharing parking management with the private sector.
ON THE WEB
Visit post-gazette.com for a video report on the new meters.
First Published July 27, 2012 12:00 am