City offers ‘smart’ alternative to cash

New Haven will streamline the consumer experience as the first city in the United States to use the new “smart card” payment system for parking and retail.

Unveiled yesterday by Mayor John DeStefano Jr., the new system will rely on the smart card, which can be used to pay for most parking meters, parking garages and small items from selected coffee shops and merchants on or near Yale’s campus. The card can be bought and loaded with up to $100 from a participating local store and later refilled. The new system, conceived by Parcxsmart Technologies and VeriFone Inc., will be fully installed by mid-summer.

“New Haven is at the cutting edge of technology and technological innovation,” New Haven Traffic and Parking Director Paul Wessel said. “Smart cards offer us the ability to use meters more effectively.”

MOKA and Atticus Bookstore and Cafe will both be implementing the cards, as will other area businesses.

According to Wessel and Parcxsmart Chief Executive Officer John Regan, the new system will not only benefit commuters in New Haven but merchants, city officials and tax payers as well.

“I think this is a classic win-win-win, everybody’s better off,” Wessel said. “If a Yale student wants a three-dollar cup of coffee at Atticus, it costs Atticus 90 cents for the student to put it on a visa card — with Parcxsmart it’s going to cost the business only 30 cents. Atticus Cafe makes out better. It will also benefit taxpayers because it’s a more cost-effective system to the city.”

The system will not be mandatory for stores within the affected area, and store owners will choose whether they wish to accept the smart card. However, according to Bryant Judd, the owner of Marketa on Temple Street, there are benefits to the new system.

“It looks like a pretty good idea and I’m hoping it’ll catch on,” Judd said. It will hopefully increase my business and bring more people in. Maybe they’ll use the card and spend it here. I’m also making a commission for every card I sell and for the money that’s put on the card.”

Stores owners are currently deciding whether or not they want to participate.

In addition to alleviating costs to store owner and taxpayers, Regan said the motivating force of the program is to make the process of parking easier on all those involved.

“The real driver of the program is to make parking and consumer life in the city more convenient when paying for street parking,” Regan said. “If someone walks into a store to change their five dollar bills, [store owners] often don’t like it because it’s extremely inconvenient. This new system is designed to remove all the coins.”

Wessel stressed that the new system will be supplementary and will in no way infringe upon commuters who wish to pay for street parking with quarters. As part of the system, existing meters in the affected areas with meters will be replaced with ones that accommodate the smart card in addition to quarters and New Haven’s current voucher system.

“The smart card will not displace coins,” Wessel said. “It’s an option, not a replacement.”

As a Hamden, Conn. resident and owner of a car on campus, Alex Cohen ’08 said he feels the new smart card is convenient and that he plans on purchasing one.

“I get out of my car and realize that I don’t have any quarters, and I normally don’t feel like walking to a store to get change,” Cohen said. “I will definitely buy one.”

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