tampabay.com

Putting coins into parking meters is so old-fashioned

By ALEXANDRA ZAYAS
Published June 22, 2007


The days of rummaging for change to feed street parking meters, of leaving a space when you still have time left and not being able to get your precious quarters back are fading.

The city of Tampa is taking steps toward a more cash-free and electronic parking system, said parking manager Jim Corbett.

Counting change is just as inconvenient for the department as it is for drivers, he said. There's the possibility that quarters could disappear from the meter to the city's bank account. Electronic transfers are safer and more direct.

These days, the city generates $3-million per year in revenue from parking tickets. That'll drop when people get more options for paying, Corbett estimates. His department is still figuring out what kind of a dent that could leave in its budget.

But "that's a good thing, in a sense, " Corbett said. He doesn't want his department to be dependent on people who don't feed their meters.

Providing more parking spaces will be a better option for making money, and the city does plan to increase parking options. As downtown expands - including more businesses, condos and restaurants in the north Franklin Street area and the Channel District - there will be no shortage of drivers.

Simplifying the collection will make that process easier for everyone, he said.

"The number one deterrent to retail today is parking, " said Vince Pardo, manager of the Ybor City Development Corp. He thinks the shift will draw more people to Ybor.

Here are some of the city's newest options for hassle-free parking:

Multi-space parking

Instead of individual coin meters, these centrally located machines will accept cash and credit cards for all of the spaces in each lot. The city's first machines will appear late this summer in two Ybor City parking lots between 18th and 20th streets and Seventh and Eighth avenues.

iPARK

Implemented about three years ago throughout Tampa, iPark works as a debit device, much like a SunPass. Add money to an account through the city and hang a small calculator on your rear-view mirror. When you pull up to a parking meter, you turn it on and program it for downtown $1.50 per hour or Ybor City (75 cents per hour). It subtracts the time you spend from your debit account. For more information, call the city parking department at 274-8417.

Cell phone parking

When you park, call in the meter number, and the clock will start ticking. Call again to deactivate. Tampa isn't quite ready for this one, but officials are researching how it works in other cities such as Coral Gables and Fort Lauderdale.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at 226-3354 or azayas@sptimes.com.