People at Parking Meter

Lake Geneva residents and visitors might soon see new parking pay-station kiosks in the city’s downtown district. (File photo/Regional News)

Lake Geneva city officials are kicking the tires on new downtown parking kiosk options, along with possibly doing away with numbered parking stalls.

The City Council has agreed to a trial period for two new pay-station kiosks that officials hope would be more user-friendly for tourists and other visitors to the downtown area.

One new option is touch-screen while the other is a push-button alternative with instructions that could be easier to follow than the city’s current push-button machines.

Officials also are talking about eliminating numbered parking stalls and instead allowing motorists to register for a parking space using their vehicle license plate number instead.

“People want more user-friendly directions,” said Sylvia Martinez-Mullally, the city’s parking operations manager.

The city’s current system of about 60 push-button parking kiosks has been in place since 2011.

Discussions have not reached the point of deciding whether it is time for new kiosks. But officials have embraced the idea of trying out a couple of new alternatives on a temporary basis.

“If we don’t like them, we can take them back,” Alderman Ken Howell said. “It won’t cost us anything, either.”

Total Parking Solutions Inc. of Downers Grove, Illinois, has agreed to let the city try both kiosk options for free for four months.

Joe Smith, co-owner of Total Parking Solutions, said the city could use that period to weigh whether either parking pay-station alternative is suitable for downtown parking.

“They can make a decision on which one they want,” Smith said.

The City Council was expected to approve the trial period Oct. 8 after the council’s Finance, License & Regulation Committee had unanimously voted to recommend it.

The two new kiosks could be installed as soon as the week of Oct. 15.

Martinez-Mullally said one kiosk could be installed on Main Street, either by Christine’s Jewelry & Watch Store or Potbelly’s Sandwich Shop, and the other could be installed on Broad Street near Thumbs Up tavern.

She said she wants to put them in areas where they could receive high usage.

“I want to see as much traffic as possible,” she said. “I want to see if they can handle a busy Saturday.”

With the city’s paid parking season scheduled to end Nov. 15, however, Martinez-Mullally also wants to gauge how well the new kiosks do in surviving the elements of a long, cold winter.

Martinez-Mullally said she plans to turn the kiosks on periodically during the winter to make sure they are still working.

“They definitely have to be ready for Wisconsin weather,” she said.

Officials have developed no estimates yet on how much it would cost to replace the city’s inventory of parking kiosks.

The city has about 1,100 parking stalls in the downtown area that requires motorists to pay $1 to $2 an hour during a parking season that extends from March to November.

The current kiosks require motorists to use a push-button keypad to enter the number of their parking stall and the length of time they plan to park, then insert a credit card or cash to pay in advance.

Martinez-Mullally said the city could establish a “pay-by-plate” option in which patrons would be able to enter their license plate number instead of a parking stall number. She said that option is available regardless of whether a new kiosk is selected.

“We could get rid of the stall markers, which would make it a nicer experience,” she said. “The mobilizing trend right now is ‘pay-by-plate.’ It’s become universal now.”

Martinez-Mullally said offering the license plate option could help reduce the number of parking tickets.

The top reason why people get parking tickets is because they punch in the wrong stall number, according to the city.

Martinez-Mullally said she also is looking into having the city partner with more parking mobile app services. The city currently partners with ParkMobile and recently approved a partnership with Parkpnp, which allows business owners to offer incentives to shoppers.

Martinez-Mullally said she is constantly looking for ways of making downtown parking more technologically advanced and more convenient for visitors.

“We’re just preparing for the future,” she said. “What I’m seeing is people want a positive parking-using experience.”