Paterson streets getting hundreds of ‘smart’ parking meters

The Paterson Parking Authority has installed more than a hundred “smart” parking meters that accept credit cards throughout the downtown Paterson business district. Tony Perez, executive director for the Paterson Parking Authority, said his agency has been testing the new meters for the past four months.

Perez said 570 smart meters will appear on Main Street starting in downtown Paterson and extending to South Paterson in the next 30-45 days. For the past four months, the authority deployed 110 smart meters in a trial run in city’s main commercial district.

“We gave it a test run to see how our customer base would react to it. They were accepted very well,” said Perez on Tuesday afternoon. “People are pleased.” He said the 570 meters include the 110 installed in a test run.

The Paterson Parking Authority has a total of 1,300 parking meters throughout the Silk City. The upgrades, being called the first wave, will replace almost half of the coin-only meters with the smart machines.

“The goal is to replace all of them,” said Perez. He said the first wave will cost $120,000. He said there’s a merchant fee of 8-20-percent to process credit card payments. However, Perez is hoping the convenience will lead to customers buying more time at the machines to avoid getting a $20 ticket at expiration.

Perez said the new machines also have sensors that zero out the meter when a vehicle leaves a parking spot. At present, a motorist is able to “piggyback” on time left behind by another – those days will be over with the new machines.

“The jig is up,” joked Perez. This will also increase revenue for the parking agency.

The new machines cost about $200 more than the older ones, according to Perez. He said the smart machines will cost a little more to maintain — for example the meters require batteries.

As other cities have modernized their parking meters, Paterson has lagged behind. Activist and former school board member Corey Teague, who often traverses other cities, has long complained about the antiquated meters.

Teague was pleased to see the smart meters. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” he said.

Perez recognized the issue. “It’s a little bit of a reach nowadays when everyone uses credit cards,” he said. It’s also nearly impossible to obtain coins from area businesses when one runs out of them.

The extra payment options will likely lead to an increase in usage. The smart meters accept Visa, Master Card, American Express, and Discover. The machines continue to accept quarters.

“I think it’s great that they accept credit cards. It makes it more convenient for everybody,” said Sheri Ferreira, executive director of the Downtown Paterson Special Improvement District (SID).

The first wave covers downtown Paterson and South Paterson. He said the second wave will cover 21st Avenue in the People’s Park neighborhood and Union Avenue in the Totowa section.

Perez has been testing modern parking meters since 2016. His agency tried another system that also took credit cards. A small number of them were installed on Market Street. However, he said those machines were troublesome when it came to maintenance.

When told, in 2018, consumers expect to feed meters using digital wallet services like Android Pay and Apple Pay, Perez replied: “We’re having conversations about that.”

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