Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Officials compare parking systems
New operation could cost up to $900,000

by Lisa Seiser

June 09, 2011

Imagine shopping in downtown Lake Geneva with no need to have a pocket full of quarters. Or, how about being able to put more time on the meter without interrupting lunch or a swim in the lake by having to walk back to your car. Think about driving into the city and being guided to open parking spaces downtown just by using your GPS or Smart phone.

One day, that could be a reality in the city of Lake Geneva.

On Monday night during the Committee of the Whole meeting, aldermen listened to presentations and observed two separate machines from a pair of parking system companies interested in providing terminals and software for the city. A recommendation is expected later this week from the city’s Parking Commission which will be forwarded to the Council for a vote at an upcoming meeting.

City Administrator Dennis Jordan said Tuesday the new system could cost anywhere from $600,000 to $900,000, depending on the number and types of pay terminals selected. He said there are differences in prices whether the stations are solar powered or take coins, for example. He said if city officials decide to purchase a new parking system, many decisions will have to be made, which can vary the costs.

City officials have discussed a new parking system for years that would rid the downtown of the coin-operated parking meters and replace them with parking terminals which can accept coins, bills or credit cards. The city has more than 900 parking spaces on the street and in lots. That means 74 terminals would be the optimum number to service that number of spaces. Instead of parking meters at every space, terminals would be spaced one for every 10 to 15 spaces. The cost for the machines is about $11,000 to $12,000 each.

The two companies that presented their terminals were Total Parking Systems and Digital Payment Technologies. Jordan said both systems were quite similar in cost.

Total Parking Systems has been in business for six years and service 50 municipalities and universities in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas. The company has its pay stations in Fontana and Harvard, too.

Digital Payment Technologies has been in business since 1997. Their stations are in 250 municipalities in North America, including the city of Milwaukee.

Both terminals function in similar fashion. They are solar, accept coins, paper money and credit cards. They can be operated in several ways, including pay by display and pay by parking space.

The Total Parking machine is narrow and black, while the Digital Payment Technologies station looks more like a traditional parking meter. The Digital machine also has a larger, color display.

Both representatives of the companies talked about the ability to extend parking time using a cell phone, setting up terminals to have varying costs for different parking locations and creating an ability to pay for boat launches and beach passes on the terminals.

Representatives said that by adding the ability to accept credit card payments for parking, revenues typically increase 16 to 17 percent. With better enforcement, a 10 to 12 percent increase in ticket revenue should be observed. One of the representatives suggested they have seen 50 percent increases in revenues from having additional payment options.

Aldermen also listened to another proposal from Tannery Creek Systems, which provides a service called Autochalk. It is a laser system used to enforce a pay by license plate system. The GPS and laser system can process two cars per second as it drives by in a vehicle. It recognizes cars by size, color and license plate.

The system would be in addition to the parking pay station terminals.

Aldermen had opportunities to ask questions about the pay station terminals and services. However, they did not discuss their opinions on any of the products Monday night during the meeting.

Jordan said Tuesday if the pay stations are approved by the council, a fall and spring installation is likely in order to ensure full working order in time for the summer of 2012.

In March, the city went out for bid on the parking pay stations.

According to the request for proposals, the city is “looking to convert and consolidate designated parking from single meter parking to multi-space meter parking with the capability of coin and bill acceptor, credit and “smart” card readers. “This system must have the ability to be managed and monitored remotely and be capable of operating in a pay and display, pay by space and pay by license plate mode.”

The 14-page proposal request outlined specifics regarding hardware, software, training and support.

Currently, the city manages about 937 parking spaces in a combination of surface lot and on- and off-street parking. The city is requesting 74 multi-space units to deal with the parking in the city.

Previous estimates put the cost of the pay station system to be between $500,000 and $600,000. That amount of money is included in the Tax Incremental Financing District project list for the parking station system. Jordan said there also is an additional $350,000 in the parking fund that can be used for the pay station.

Jordan said a system could make all 937 spaces in the city “completely automated and more efficient” He said it could eliminate previous concerns by aldermen regarding employee coin handling. Jordan said it also could “help take away some of the things that bother people the most — tickets.”