- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2008

BALTIMORE | The switch from old-fashioned parking meters to electronic ones has increased the city’s parking revenue by 54 percent over four years, according to the Baltimore Parking Authority.

Revenue increased to $7 million this fiscal year, compared with $4.5 million in fiscal 2004 - the last year before the new meters were installed. The electronic boxes accept cash and credit cards and give parkers a paper receipt marked with an expiration time. They serve an entire block instead of a single parking spot.

The District and other U.S. cities using multi-space meters also report increases in revenue.

The use of credit cards at electronic meters in the District’s Georgetown neighborhood increase revenue by 35 percent to 40 percent, said John Lisle, a spokesman for the District Department of Transportation. He said parkers in Georgetown use cards for about half of the payments. However, about 25 percent of parkers in Adams Morgan pay by credit card, which has resulted in a more modest 20 percent revenue increase.

The switch in Portland, Ore., increased revenue by 30 percent over three years, said Ellis McCoy, the manager of the city’s parking program.

Peter E. Little, the Baltimore Parking Authority’s executive director, said of the meters: “Financially, they are doing well. The real aim has been to make it easier for people to comply with the law.”

The first 300 to 400 meters in Baltimore were expected to bring in an extra $1 million, but revenue increased almost $2.5 million.

The new machines allow more cars to fit in the same amount of space because individual spots aren’t marked off by meters. Up to 15 percent more cars can fit on each block.

It’s also more convenient for parkers to pay, Mr. Little said. About half of all parkers now pay by credit card, and since the minimum payment by plastic is $1, he said some pay for more time than they might have before with traditional meters.

Parkers can even press a button labeled “max,” for maximum time, which charges for two or even four hours of parking time, depending on the location.

Some parkers have exploited loopholes that allow them to pass unexpired paper receipts to other parkers or carry the unexpired receipt to an area where parking costs more an hour. Mr. Little said the city might restrict receipt reuse to sectors in the city.

However, the machines reduce fraud since they are “fully auditable,” and the city knows how much it should receive from each one.

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