October 30, 2013

Council Gives Green Light to Dinky Multi-Meters

Drivers who park at Princeton’s Dinky train station will be the guinea pigs for a two-year pilot program testing a technologically updated payment system that could result in cost savings for the municipality. Instead of the traditional parking meters, motorists will pay at kiosks using credit cards, smart cards, and their phones.

Princeton Council passed a resolution Monday night allowing the pilot program to begin. Staff from the town and Princeton University, which will share financing for the program, have been considering the idea for the past several months, Princeton’s assistant engineer Deanna Stockton said in a presentation to Council. The vendor Digital Payment Technologies was chosen by the joint group to install eight multi-lingual, solar-powered kiosks known as Luke II, with multiple payment options.

“This is quite exciting from a staff perspective, in that we have the opportunity to update something that is over a decade old,” said municipal administrator Bob Bruschi. The payment kiosks will be installed starting in January, Ms. Stockton said. Currently, there are about 1,100 individual parking meters along Princeton’s streets and in municipal parking lots throughout the town. Emptying and monitoring them is very time consuming, Mr. Bruschi said.

The town’s parking meter attendants have recently been the subject of unfavorable attention following reports of selective enforcement. Officer Chris Boutote was fired this month, while Jon Hughes was suspended for a month and reassigned.

Ms. Stockton said that the University would donate eight meters, at a cost of $96,000, as well as signage and striping. The municipality would spend $15,000 a year to operate the meters. In the long term, if the program goes ahead, an extended service warranty could be purchased, with various options.

Millburn and Asbury Park are among New Jersey towns already using the program. Patrons of the multi-space meters will pay for parking by keying in their parking space numbers. “What happens when there is snow and ice on the ground?”, asked Council president Bernie Miller. “How can people see the number of their space?” Ms. Stockton acknowledged that the issue was a concern, and told Mr. Miller that it would be considered during the pilot program. Posts, maps, and other means of identification could be explored, she said.

First to be tried out are spaces at the current Dinky station parking lot, Ms. Stockton said. Next, probably in February, parking spaces along University Place would utilize the new meters. Parking spots along Alexander Street, where construction for the Arts & Transit complex is underway, will get the meters in 2015.

The idea is to determine if the cost of maintaining the multi-space meters makes sense, Ms. Stockton said. Patrons can still pay by using cash, but credit cards, smart cards, and mobile apps will be encouraged. “If you’re late for a train, you can just pay for the spot by phone from the train,” she said. Users can pay from any meter, not just the one nearest their vehicle.

Asked how reliable the meters are, Ms. Stockton told Council that they can be repaired quickly if they malfunction. “They have very limited down time,” she said, having talked to staff at other municipalities that use the technology.