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New meters would alert Pittsburgh parkers by phone before time expired

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Thursday, July 17, 2014, 11:21 p.m.
 

Pittsburgh Parking Authority plans to incorporate 21st-century technology into 20th-century meters by offering a “pay by phone” credit-card option for meters that accept only coins.

Drivers would be able to use smartphones to pay for parking at about 750 meters that the authority did not replace when it spent about $6 million in 2012 to buy 894 meters that accept cash and credit cards.

Parking Authority Executive Director David Onorato said he hopes to have the system in place before year's end.

“It's another convenience, and we're hoping to do it citywide,” he said. “It also allows people to add time onto their meter without coming back to the meter.”

Drivers would set up an account with the authority in advance that includes their license-plate number. Neighborhoods that have old meters would be marked with signs and a code number that drivers would enter while paying.

Enforcement officers would be able to determine if time remains on a meter by entering the license-plate number into a hand-held device.

The system would send texts to customers when their meters are about to expire, Onorato said. Neighborhoods that have coin-only meters include the West End, Beechview, Carrick, North Side and East Liberty.

“You would be out — say eating dinner — and you would get a text saying your time is about to expire, so then you'd be able to add time without coming out to the meter,” he said.

Authority directors on Thursday approved the $126,800 purchase of 20 meters that will replace about 80 coin-only meters. The meters will be installed on streets in Mt. Washington and lots in West End Village and Observatory Hill.

Onorato said revenue generated by the 890 new meters, as well as a subsequent rate increase, has exceeded the $6 million cost. In all, meter revenue was $7.5 million in 2011 and $13.5 million last year.

Mayor Bill Peduto said his administration and the authority are negotiating a deal to funnel some of that additional revenue into city pension funds. Council in 2010 asked the authority for $8 million a year for pensions, but the Ravenstahl administration opposed the extra funding. Since 2012, the authority has contributed $5.2 million in extra revenue to Pittsburgh, Onorato said.

“Our goal is to have an agreement signed between the parking authority board and City Council this year,” said Peduto, who appointed a new authority board after taking office this year.

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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