TO:                  Mayor and Town Council


FROM:            W. Calvin Horton, Town Manager


SUBJECT:       Options for Meters and Pay Stations for On-Street Parking and Smart Cards


DATE:             January 12, 2004



The Council has expressed interest in establishing an on-street parking system using centralized pay stations as an alternative to meters.  The Council has also expressed an interest in smart cards.




Pay Stations


Pay stations are an alternative to the Town’s current meter system for paid on-street parking.  The Council received an initial report on on-street pay stations on October 27, 2003.  


When pay stations are used, they usually are placed so that there is one station for every eight meters.  By placing stations at the midpoint of the eight spaces, patrons would need to walk no more than four places to make payment.  Pay stations and meters cannot be used together for the same parking spaces.


The initial cost of the pay station exceeds the amount of revenue that a pay station could collect in a year’s time.  Using an average rate of revenue per meter per year of $1,300, the Town collects approximately $10,400 for eight meters/one pay station per year.  A pay station costs between $11,000 and $13,000 for initial installation.  There is an additional cost for pay stations to accept credit cards or smart cards. 


We have spoken with other communities who have installed on-street pay stations.  We have been told that communities need to invest heavily in marketing to gain acceptance of the on-street pay stations.  Where communities have not invested in patron education, pay stations have not been well received.  In addition, vendors who sell pay stations and meters have recommended using meters for on-street locations for communities of our size.


Advantages of Pay Stations


·        Pay stations provide some additional revenue by reducing the ability of patrons to “piggyback” off of a previous patron, that is, one patron does not “leave time” on a meter with a pay station system.


·        Revenue collection takes less staff time with pay stations than with meters.


·        Pay stations can be set up to accept credit card payments or smart cards.   


Disadvantages of Pay Stations


·        Patrons have to walk to pay stations.


·        A pay station costs more than the replaced eight parking meters can earn in a year’s time.


·        Pay stations require ongoing maintenance agreements and supplies.


·        Pay stations require a marketing campaign to ensure patron acceptance.


Smart Cards


Smart cards are an alternative to the Town’s current system of accepting payment in cash for on-street parking.  The Council received an initial report on smart cards on November 24, 2003.  Both pay stations and meters can read smart cards.  Most of the Town’s meters have the capability to be upgraded.  The cost to upgrade the meter hardware is approximately $3 per meter.  The Town has approximately 170 on-street meters capable of reading smart cards once upgraded.  There is, however, an additional cost for software for smart cards for either pay stations or meters.


In the volume that the Town could reasonably purchase for a year’s use, the cards cost $2 each for disposable cards and $4 each for recyclable cards.  Because the Town’s pay station in Lot 5 has a proprietary smart card operating system, there would be additional cost for providing a single card for both Lot 5 and on-street meters.  The cost of the cards would be raised to approximately $20/card for cards that would be compatible with the Town’s pay station and meters.


If cards are all purchased at a single site where Town employees are present, the system would cost approximately $2,000.  The cost of a single smart card delivery system for use without Town employee intervention is approximately $8,000.


Advantages of Smart Cards


·        Patrons do not have to carry cash for on-street parking.


Disadvantages of Smart Cards


·        The cost of the cards and dispensing systems are disproportionately high in comparison with expected revenues.


·        The cost of the dispensing machines is sufficiently high that card acquisition is likely to be inconvenient.




We do not recommend installation of on-street pay stations at this time because of the cost of the on-street pay stations relative to the amount of money the Town earns from on-street parking. 


We do not recommend the use of smart cards at this time because of the cost of the cards and dispensing machines relative to the amount of money the Town earns from on-street and lot parking. 




  1. Memorandum of November 24, 2003, with attachments (p. 4).