Princeton officials planning to acquire new parking pay stations

Princeton officials will spend $1 million for a company to provide and install high-tech single-space parking meters and multi-space pay stations that will have multiple payment options.

In all, some 1,000 meters will be replaced, municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton said on May 7. The new machines will accept payment in coin, credit card or through a smartphone app. Later this month, officials will hire a vendor, IPS Group, to provide and install the equipment, she said.

“You might find the smart meters are actually very green, in the fact they rely on solar energy,” said Julie Dixon, the consultant aiding the town in the project, during a presentation at the Princeton Council’s meeting May 7.

“They have rechargeable batteries and everything that is done with them is communicated wirelessly. So being able to do remote programming and managing those parking meters is really optimized and efficient,” Dixon said.

The new equipment will not accept the municipal smart card, or a type of debit card, which officials have said is being phased out.

The municipality will allow residents to apply for parking permits over the internet, but that will be a longer-term project, Stockton said.

Earlier this year, officials announced they would be moving in this direction, to introduce the new technology, as they said they also would be looking at parking regulations. One option before them is to raise the price of on-street parking, which has not happened in about 10 years, said a Princeton official.

“We are considering raising the rates and also calibrating them to encourage turnover and encourage short-term parking where we want short-term parking and long-term parking where we want long-term parking in order to optimize parking for the merchants and the businesses,” council President Jenny Crumiller said on May 8. “Whatever increases we make, we are going to do gradually.”

In the past, officials have raised the prospect of exploring charging an escalating cost to park longer in high-demand spaces in the downtown area to spur turnover.

“The goal is to create the situation where there is always some parking availability,” Crumiller said. “So you price those spaces that are most in demand higher.”

The leader of an area business group called it critical to have parking available for people coming downtown for a quick stop.

“Anything that can help the downtown business community, we’re all for,” said Peter Crowley, president and CEO of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce. “I think it’s always important that customers coming to the retail spaces and the businesses in downtown Princeton have access to parking and that’s the key.”

Another option for council is to lower the price of longer-term parking spots, Crumiller said.

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