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'Smart Cards' could provide incentives to shoppers



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Martinez-Mullally
July 01, 2014 | 04:31 PM
Several possible alternatives exist to give businesses the option of rewarding customers with free or reduced parking at the city’s parking kiosks, according to Sylvia Martinez-Mullally, city parking supervisor.

Martinez-Mullally told the Lake Geneva Parking Commission on Wednesday that the city’s Luke II parking kiosks can be configured to use a personal identification number, or PIN, Smart Cards, one-time paper coupons or even a smart phone app to apply bonus time for parking customers.

With the PIN system, a business owner might pass out a number to customers that the customers could then enter into the kiosk for an hour, two hours or more of free parking, Martinez-Mullally said.

The PIN could be changed every 24 hours, so people couldn’t spread it around and get more free parking than intended.

Martinez-Mullally said the Luke II system is geared to handle that system and it would have no extra cost.

“Another pro is that it’s immediate,” Martinez-Mullally said. “We could do that tomorrow.”

What’s more, the PIN system could be limited only to select groups of the city’s 63 Luke II kiosks.

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“It’s called couponing,” Martinez-Mullally said. But she doesn’t want to use that term because it could be confusing.

And, the downside is that the PIN option adds another prompt to the Luke II’s starting menu that might also confuse some people.

The next option is the Smart Card.

The Smart Card system is also compatible with Luke IIs, but there is a cost involved, Martinez-Mullally said.

Smart Cards have an imbedded computer chip. That chip can have value downloaded into it. It can also be used as a marketing tool, with logos and information printed on it. However, the cards must be purchased from a provider and cost $5 to $7 each, Martinez-Mullally said.

Cards with magnetic strips, like credit and ATM cards, are less expensive.

But there may be some compatibility issues using noncredit cards with magnetic strips, Martinez-Mullally said.

A third option is a mobile app. The system uses an electronic validation system so no cards are needed. The free parking time is downloaded into the individual’s Smart Phone, and the app communicates the free parking time to the parking kiosk using the phone, Martinez-Mullally said. The individual doesn’t even have to get out of the car to activate it, she said.

There is a cost. Parking app companies collect a transaction fee, about 35 cents per transaction, Martinez-Mullally said.

And a person needs a smart phone to use the app. And, there are cell phone companies that have problems in Lake Geneva, she said.

Alderman Bob Kordus, who is on the commission, said that while he was in St. Louis, he saw a parking validation code printed on a paper card that was fed into a kiosk-like parking machine to pay for parking.

The kiosk kept the paper card, which was intended for one-time use.

Darien Schaefer, president of the Geneva Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, asked if there were a demand for those kinds of services.

Martinez-Mullally said a small percentage of parking system users have asked about those services, “but as it becomes more prevalent elsewhere, the demand here may increase.”

Mayor Jim Connors said he thought a card or PIN system might be used by businesses as promotions.

“If you spend 50 or 100 bucks in my store, I’ll cover an hour or two of your parking,” Connors said.

He also said a Smart Card system could be used for city residents to keep track of their two hours of free parking during the summer months.

He said the card would keep track of the two hours, which the residents could spend over several stops.

The way the system works now, a resident with a two-hour free parking sticker can use it at only one parking stop. If that person leaves before two hours, they lose that time for the rest of the day.

Martinez-Mullally said the Luke II system is very flexible.

“You have more than you know,” she told the commissioners.

Kevin Fleming, a parking commissioner and downtown business owner, said the idea of a parking incentive for customers is appealing to him.

“If I had to buy them (the Smart Cards) at $5 apiece, I’d buy 20, 30 or 40 of them,” he told the commissioners.

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