New Downtown Meters Charge Full Two Hours On Credit Cards
COLUMBIA - New parking meters on Ninth Street in downtown Columbia offer multiple ways to pay for parking. But depending on the payment method drivers use, the amount they shell out could differ.
The city of Columbia installed 40 new parking meters this week on Ninth Street between Locust Street and University Avenue. These machines are the second type of parking meter the city is testing that allows drivers to pay the meter with either coins, credit cards or cell phones.
The meters are located directly adjectent to the parking spots along the street and are different from the two multi-space systems the city installed on Ninth street between Broadway and Locust.
Drivers can use coins to pay for parking and they have the option to pay for as little or as much time (up to two hours) as they want. However, when drivers pay by credit card they have no choice but to pay for the two full hours of parking, $1.20 in all.
This means that drivers could be paying more for parking downtown without coins. But some say the benefit of being able to use the credit card outweighs the negative aspects.
"I think it is a good thing because if I didn't have coins I wouldn't be able to park here," said Rachel Honig, an MU student who parked on Ninth Street Friday. "And so even though you'd have to pay for more I think the credit card's a real convenience."
Jill Stedem of Columbia Public Works said the city charges drivers the full two hours when they pay by credit card because the city absorbs the fees from the credit card company.
"If we didn't, the city would lose money with the credit cards," Stedem said in a phone interview.
Drivers can also pay for parking on the new meters with a phone service called Extend-By-Phone. When using this method, drivers can pay any amount they want (up to the two hour limit) but are charged an additional $0.35 fee for the service over what they pay to park.
"If you knew you were going to park down here and you didn't have change then that's the risk you run," said Laura Whipple, a student who parks downtown. "So it's nice if you didn't have change anyway, then you come down here and they didn't have a credit card then you wouldn't be able to pay so you'd have to park somewhere else."
According to a news release from the Columbia Public Works Department, the city will continue to test the benefit of these new meters through mid-May.