Trial run shows credit card parking meters bring in more revenue

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJuly 8, 2013 

Kara Johnson already had her coins out when she pulled up to park on Bay Street on Monday for a stop at one of her favorite stores.

If she hadn't had the change, though, she still could have parked by swiping her credit card. She was at one of 10 card-enabled meters Beaufort is testing.

"That's a really good idea, because most of the time, I don't have any cash," Johnson said, holding up her cellphone with a credit card tucked in the case. "I usually just carry this instead of my purse."

Monday was the last day of a 90-day test for the electronic meters, which accept credit and debit cards, as well as coins. Preliminary reports from city officials indicate the meters bring in more revenue than regular meters.

The city and Park Beaufort, which contracts with the city to manage parking, installed the new meters April 1. As of June 30, they generated $4,099, according to the city. During the same period, 10 cash-only meters brought in $3,046.

The new meters provide details on transactions. As of June 30, drivers who parked in spaces with the new meters used their cards an average of 8.5 percent of the time. Those payments comprised 21 percent of meter revenue. The average card transaction was $1.80, compared to $0.64 with cash, according to the city.

City officials have discussed replacing aging traditional meters with the new meters if the test is deemed a success. Park Beaufort is urging city manager Scott Dadson to buy more of the meters.

The combination coin-card meters cost $595 each, compared to $450 for coin-only versions. The cost difference typically is recouped within a year because people buy more time when they use their credit or debit cards, parking manager Lundy Baker has said.

The card option doesn't appeal to everyone.

Patty Stawaisz, visiting from Greenville, said she keeps change handy because she doesn't want to use a card.

Darlene Kelly, owner of Simply Southern and Simply Southern Too, has a set of the meters in front of her stores and sees people struggling with them daily.

"I've seen a lot of confusion," she said. " ... Quarters confuse them less than a two-headed machine with buttons."

Hourly parking rates in Beaufort haven't changed. Parking rules are enforced downtown from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Parking is free on Sundays and recognized holidays.

Parking revenues are split: 85 percent goes to the Beaufort Redevelopment Commission and 15 percent to Main Street Beaufort USA. None goes into Beaufort's general fund.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

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