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February 20. 2012 11:33PM

Use plastic, not cash at Portsmouth meters

PORTSMOUTH — Credit card-enabled parking meters are coming to the city for a 90-day test.

Starting Thursday, they will replace about 30 traditional single-space coin meters on the northerly side of Daniel Street from Penhallow Street to Market Square, and on both sides of Penhallow from Daniel to Bow Street.

The larger pay-and-display meters being used in other parts of the city would not work well there because sidewalks are narrow, said Jon Frederick, transportation and parking director.

“We chose that area because it is heavily utilized and we knew we would get many customers testing them,” Frederick said.

He said about 60 percent of people now pay for parking with a credit card, given the option, even though all the machines in the city still take coins.

Pay-and-Display meters with credit card options were first introduced downtown in 2007 and have resulted in fewer parking violations, Frederick said.

“If people are given the opportunity to pay, they are inclined to do so,” Frederick said. “In the past you would hear people say they didn't have quarters, or they didn't know they needed quarters to pay ... and it resulted in a ticket.”

But for the added convenience offered to consumers, a 13-cent per credit card transaction fee will be charged to the city.

Frederick said part of the analysis done over the 90-day test will include a cost analysis — weighing the operational costs of the new meters against their convenience and data collection capabilities.

“The data that those meters provide allows us to help the council make policy decisions, because in the past, if you wanted any kind of occupancy rate or count, you would have to do it manually,” Frederick said. “You don't have to do that anymore. It records every transaction ...”

He said there are about 200 spots in the city with single-space meters, but he can't say if the credit card-enabled meters make sense for all of them.

“That's why we're doing this test,” Frederick said.


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