Parking Meter Trials Leading to Permanent Changes

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia City Council has approved new parking meters that will mirror much of what some drivers experiences with trial meters on Ninth Street over the past year.

City officials said the only difference from the trials is that the new meters won't accept pre-paid EZ-Park cards. But planners left the option open to allow the bar code on the prepaid, debit-like card to be changed to work in the new meters.

As of now, the 117 new parking meters that will be placed downtown on Ninth Street from Broadway to University Avenue, and along Broadway from Ninth Street to Tenth Street, will only use credit cards or coins.

The Columbia Public Works Public Information Specialist Steven Sapp said "The meters will be added for the convenience of our customers. Although they might have to pay more for the ride, that's what people told us they preferred in our survey."

Driver Teddy Williams said, "I usually park at the coin meters, but sometimes I forget my change. So yeah, more credit card meters would be good for the city."

However, Williams didn't see why the current meters along Ninth Street don't allow drivers to pay for just the amount of time they park. Instead, those using a credit card must pay for a two hours of parking--with no other options.

Sapp said the reason the meters charge a full two hours has to do with credit card transaction fees. The meters already charges customers an additional service charge for using a credit card on top of the parking rate.

Here is what to expect from the new meters and how they will work:

The meters will charge credit card users for a full two hours no matter how long drivers use them
Meters on empty parking space with time still on the meter will drivers to add more time by credit card or coin.
The new meters are expected to cost $60,000. City sources said the meters should pay for themselves in two years because they expect to make more from people to use the credit card meters at a higher rate than they did with the older coin-only meters.

Currently, there is not a set schedule for when the meters will be in place but Sapp said, "I am confident the new meters will be ready by next fall."