published Monday, January 28th, 2013

Tech-savvy parking meters coming to city


by Cliff Hightower

A pedestrian walks past parking meters off of Frazier Ave.
A pedestrian walks past parking meters off of Frazier Ave.
Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

BY THE NUMBERS

* $700,000: Cost of new downtown parking meters

* 640: Meters purchased

* 60: Percent of city that will get new meters

Source: Chattanooga Area Regional Transit Authority

New meters are going up across Chattanooga that should make it more convenient for users to pay for parking.

The new parking meters will take credit cards and eventually also will support a prepurchased card.

"We turned them on Tuesday," said Tom Dugan, executive director for the Chattanooga Area Regional Transit Authority.

CARTA bought 640 new meters -- 40 meters for multispace parking and 600 meters for single-space parking -- for $700,000, he said.

But he expects they will pay for themselves. "Parking pays for parking," Dugan said.

The solar-powered meters will make up 60 percent of the city's meters, he said. Coin-operated meters will stay on in areas of low use, where the replacement cost can't be justified.

"The more they are used, the more likely they will be replaced," he said.

Multispace meters already have been installed along Broad and Market streets.

Brent Matthews, CARTA's director of parking, said single-space meters will be installed by the middle of next week.

"As soon as we put them in, they'll be operational," he said.

He said the Chattanooga Parking Authority has received no complaints so far.

"A lot of people are excited about using their credit card," he said.

Dugan said CARTA received a three-year loan to pay for the meters, and revenues generated from parking fines and fees will repay it.

Last year, meter expenses were $489,000 and revenue was $747,000, he said. That meant a $258,000 profit. And that didn't even include most of the parking fines, which started coming to CARTA in October.

Matthews said the price of parking will remain at 75 cents an hour. But anyone who uses a credit card will have to buy a complete hour of time.

"That's because of credit card fees," he said.

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