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Need To Feed The Meters? Pull Out The Plastic

By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer

January 30, 2008

Motorists in Hartford may soon have an alternative to standing in the cold at a parking meter and groping in a pocket or purse for nickels, dimes or quarters.

The city council approved the transfer of $3.3 million Monday for the city's parking authority to purchase new "pay-and-display" parking meters, which will still accept coins but will also allow patrons to use credit cards.

The new meters will provide a receipt for up to the maximum two hours that is then displayed on a vehicle's dashboard.

"This is good for the parker, because no one ever carries enough change to satisfy the needs of parking meters," said James Kopencey, the executive director of Hartford's parking authority. "Many people unfairly get tickets because of the difficulty of procuring change. What the parking authority is doing is taking what people most often carry with them in their pockets that is a credit card and giving them the option to use it."

Kopencey said the city's 1,600 existing coin-only meters are old, in need of repair and have become technologically obsolete.

They will be replaced by 250 pay-and-display kiosks, one for every seven parking spaces. While the new meters will still accept all types of coins, there will be a minimum purchase of 25 cents, an increase from the current 5-cent minimum. The machines will not accept bills. The charge for two hours of parking is $2.

The new meters will be solar powered and will connect to a central database via a cellular network, Kopencey said. At any given time the authority will be able to tell how much money each meter contains, whether any are running low on receipt paper or battery power and if one has been tampered with, Kopencey said. The meters, which will be a model called the Stelio made by the Parkeon Company, are used in parts of New York City and Washington, he said.

The authority is finalizing a contract with Parkeon to manufacture and install the meters. The authority plans in April or May to test 12 of the meters in a 60-day trial in front of city hall and around Gold Street. After a successful trial period, Kopencey said, the authority will install all the remaining meters. Kopencey said he hopes to have all of them in place by early July.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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