Choose Coins or Charge Cards to Feed New Meters in Towson

… Revenue Authority to replace 200 devices in downtown area by spring …

baltimoresun.com

By Loni Ingraham, lingraham@patuxent.com

2:30 PM EDT, June 13, 2011

The Baltimore County Revenue Authority is making a change in Towson that makes up for a lack of change.

The authority, which is in charge of parking meters throughout the county, is replacing many of the meters on Towson’s streets with meters that not only accept quarters, but credit and debit cards as well — as long as the amount charged is $1 or more.

“I think it’s great,” said Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce. “A lot of people don’t carry quarters and coins with them. That’s why many of them get tickets. But everybody usually has a credit card.”

The authority, which operates meters for 624 parking places on streets in Towson and 165 spaces in Towson’s metered lots, plans to replace 200 of the 400 street meters in the downtown area by spring, according to Wayne Mixdorf, the authority’s director of parking.

“The biggest reason is, it gives consumers a choice of not carrying change,” he said.

In addition the new meters might save them money in some instances.

Parking is $1 an hour in Towson, Mixdorf said. The hours of enforcement on the street are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“If you parked at 7:45 a.m., he said, “the older meters would start charging you right away, but the new meters won’t started charging you until 8 a.m.”

The new meters, which cost $495 each, are solar powered, which is a benefit for the authority as well, he said. The old meters ran on 9-volt batteries that had to be replaced annually.

The authority has no plans to replace the 9,200 machines on some downtown streets that also accept coins as well as charges, in exchange for parking receipts that can be displayed on dashboards.

They require nearly seven to eight spaces “to work financially,” he said. They will remain in place.

The new meters are more suited for fewer consecutive parking places. They can be seen on Pennsylvania, Allegheny and Susquehanna avenues.

Eventually, the Revenue Authority will replace its aging meters in other parts of the county, Mixdorf said, but downtown Towson usually gets the new equipment first because it has far more metered parking.

At one of the new meters on Susquehanna Avenue, in Towson, a woman sat in her car talking on her cell phone June 10. She wasn’t sure if she was going to stay, she said. She hadn’t figured out how to operate the meter.

Meanwhile, driver Jessica Gay parked in front of one of the new meters across the street, quickly got out of her car and shoved a quarter in the slot.

Having the option to use a credit card was “nice,” she said, though she didn’t plan to take advantage of it that day.

Some things don’t change, though. The penalty for exceeding the allotted time in all cases remains $20.

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