While drivers enjoy the perks of free holiday season parking in Collingswood, changes are going on behind the scenes about how people can pay for parking in the new year.
Drivers soon will have access to a pay by license plate number option at Collingswood kiosks, negating the need to display a dashboard printout. That both eliminates walking back from the kiosk to one’s car and allows drivers to re-up their parking time from any Collingswood kiosk.
The changes come after steady complaints by drivers and Collingswood business owners that the current kiosk operation isn’t ideal.
As it stands now, a driver in a kiosk zone parks the car, walks to a kiosk, pays for parking, receives a receipt and walks back to the car to display the receipt on the dashboard.
Complaints ranged from people annoyed at all of the walking during inclement weather to parents protesting that it’s too unwieldy to schlep kids from car to kiosk to car and finally to the ultimate destination.
Now, by inputting the license plate number, drivers won’t have to display a dashboard receipt, said Collingswood Police Chief Richard Sarlo.
“We talked to Metric (the kiosk manufacturer) about the feedback and asked for solutions,” Sarlo said. “This is one they came up with, and it’s a good hybrid. If you know your license plate number, you don’t need the dashboard receipt. If you don’t, you can still use the kiosks, but you’ll need to display the dashboard receipt.”
Drivers who use the license plate option can add time to their parking from any kiosk.
“If you’re at dinner and you realize you need more time, you can go to the closest one,” the chief said. “It’s much more convenient than having to go back to your car.”
Time limits, ranging from three to eight hours, still apply, and drivers should not add time beyond the advertised limit, Sarlo said.
Collingswood’s kiosks will be retrofitted with a keyboard, allowing drivers to enter license plate numbers. Drivers who don’t know their plate will enter several zeros instead, Sarlo said.
Retrofitting the kiosks with the keyboards and new instructions will cost about $7,900, the chief said.
Authorising, authorising …. cancelled, and other kiosk matters
Complaints about walking from car to kiosk aren’t the only grumblings about Collingswood’s new parking system, rolled out in March. Some credit card users find the kiosks cancel attempts to pay for parking or display “authorising” (oddly, the British spelling) for minutes on end.
Sarlo blames the glitches on AT&T’s network, which Collingswood uses to connect with banks to authorize the parking purchase.
“We know it’s been an issue. If it continues, we’ll look at other options like Verizon or Sprint” when the current contract runs out in 2012, Sarlo said.
He’s also examining other improvements, like use a cell phone or mobile app to pay for parking, completely eliminating a trip to the kiosk. Other plans call for getting rid of all meters in town in favor of kiosks. Meters are still used in the parking lots between Haddon Avenue and the PATCO speedline.
Despite some bumps in the road, Sarlo calls the switch from meters to kiosks a good move. Borough officials can monitor the machines in real time to ensure they’re working and to see how much money is coming in. The latter especially adds accountability, the chief explained, because he knows “down to the penny” how much a kiosk has collected at any given moment.
“We’re doing what we can to improve the parking experience in Collingswood,” Sarlo said. “It should be more convenient for us (borough officials) and more convenient for drivers.”