Cards facilitate parking

New Haven’s parking problems may not be a pressing concern for most Yale students, but a city program aiming to computerize parking meters may offer a new convenience for students grabbing their morning coffee.

The Parcxmart program, currently in its pilot phase in New Haven, is a new electronic parking meter system that doubles as a debit card at certain city stores. The program allows customers to load up to $100 on cards purchased from participating merchants in New Haven, including Moka, Atticus Bookstore, Cafe Adulis, Bentara, Koffee? and News Haven, said Gerard Kiley, vice president of business development for Parcxmart Technologies. The money can be then be spent on products and services from the participating stores or at one of the 500 new computerized parking meters around the city.

Though Parcxmart cards primarily function as a quarter-free way of paying at parking meters in the downtown area, Kiley said the card is also a convenient alternative to cash for certain low-cost purchases.

“If you regularly spend money on coffee or hot chocolate at Moka, you always want to be sure that you have enough cash resources to be able to pay for it,” Kiley said. “The card is easier than fishing for those dollar bills and that change in your wallet.”

Duncan Goodall, the owner of Moka on Orange Street, said his cafe has already issued around 100 cards, and he estimates the chocolate shop makes two to five transactions a day using the card.

“In the coffee business, the average transaction size is relatively small, so most people are reluctant to use a credit card and prefer to use cash,” Goodall said. “The card seemed like a good match for those small transactions.”

Kiley said there are already 700 Parcxmart cards in circulation in the New Haven area, and that the card is primarily being used at coffee shops and other stores around the city selling low-price products.

“The whole idea [of the card] is really to provide an effective link between the merchant community, the consumer community and the city through its parking structure,” Kiley said.

The city will finish installing the 500 Parcxmart technology-equipped meters by next week, said Paul Wessler, director of the city’s Department of Traffic and Parking. Once the entire system is in place, a map of parking locations will be posted on the Info New Haven Web site and around town.

“At this point, we’re getting good feedback on the street as we’re installing the technology, but we won’t know fully the success of the program for a couple of months,” Wessel said.

Wessler said the city opted to participate in the program for a number of reasons, including the comparative ease of electronically collecting parking meter dues.

“It’s a more efficient system on a number of different levels, and, frankly, it makes it much easier for people to park in New Haven,” he said.

He also said the program acts as an incentive for people to comply with parking laws.

“We acknowledge that having quarters is sometimes inconvenient,” he said. “We’ve been looking for a while for easier ways for people to pay for their parking, and the SmartCard seems like a good option for that.”

Wessel called the current program a “pilot phase” that poses no costs and no risks to the city. The technology is also being tested in San Jose, Calif., though the project there is still in its beginning stages.

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