High-Tech Parking Extends Beyond Big U.S. Cities

Solar-powered parking pay stations in the city of Lake Geneva, Wis., let drivers pay for parking by credit card and extend parking time via text message.
by | May 25, 2012

By Sarah Rich, Government Technology Staff Writer

Sophisticated parking meters, parking payment apps, adjustable pricing, real-time sensors and other gadgetry have taken root in big cities as transportation departments seek to collect more revenue, reduce traffic and make the process easier for citizens.

But this technology is no longer only the domain of metropolitan areas.

Take the city of Lake Geneva, Wis.

Sixty-one solar-powered parking pay stations were deployed there this week. The stations give drivers the option to pay for parking throughout the city with credit and debit cards, a driver can send a text message to extend their allotted parking time.

The city and its namesake lake sit in the southeast corner of Wisconsin, about an hour away from Milwaukee. The city is home to fewer than 10,000 people, but the lake is a tourist hot spot and attracts out-of-towners.

While parking station technology is not a new concept — big cities like San Francisco and New York City have implemented similar technologies for parking payment — smaller communities like Lake Geneva are now finding value in these kiosks. Dennis Jordan, Lake Geneva’s city administrator, said it was important for the city to implement technology to track parking revenue in order to address auditing concerns.

“There’s about 1,000 parking spaces that [require payment] in the city,” Jordan sad. “So that’s quite a sizeable amount for a city our size. It’s important that we don’t have people who want to go to the beach at the lake fill a space for all day without moving their car. It’s important to our businesses that they move around, so this is our way of getting movement.”

The parking meter pay stations replaced the 1,000 single-head meters through the city. Users now have the option to pay for parking with coins, cash, credit and debit cards for a maximum parking time of five hours. Before deployment of the pay station technology – developed by Chicago-based Automated Parking Technologies – drivers couldn’t pay with cards.

Although the cost of parking spaces was raised from 50 cents an hour to $1 an hour since the deployment of the pay stations, Jordan said parking is still significantly cheaper than in big cities.

If users wish to keep the parking spot longer, they have the option to leave a phone number at the pay station with Extend-by-Phone capability for extending their parking session to a longer amount of time, without the requirement of an account set up, according to the vendor.

When parking time is nearly expired, users can receive a text message from the pay station asking if they would like to extend the parking session and by how much time. They can respond to the text message with the amount of additional time they’d like to add, which will automatically charge the user’s card with the additional fee.

Jordan said the pay stations include an option for users to buy beach passes. And in one pay station location, users can purchase boat launch permits.

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