COLUMBIA — Some motorists will be able to pay for downtown parking with credit cards and phones starting Monday, when the two multi-space meters for the city's 90-day pilot program are activated.
Digital Payment Technologies installed the machines, called LUKE II stations, on Feb. 2. They sit on either side of Ninth Street between Broadway and Locust streets, and signs display two-digit numbers at each affected space, which motorists then use to pay at the meter.
Payment options include current meter options of coinage and EZ Park Cards, as well as credit and debit cards and Pay-by-Phone.
Park Mobile integrates with Digital Payment Technologies for the Pay-by-Phone mechanism so that parking enforcement can view all payments in one interface, said Alan Menezes, the vice president of product management and marketing for Digital Payment Technologies.
When motorists opt to use Pay-by-Phone, they have two options: the free Park Mobile application or the Interactive Voice Response system. While the application is only accessible to smartphones, any mobile phone user can call the voice response system to purchase parking time through a series of prompts.
Both options require registration of a motorist's contact information as well as license plate number and credit card the first time one calls or activates the application. Motorists can also preregister at the Park Mobile website.
There is a 35-cent fee per telephone transaction.
With Pay-by-Phone, motorists receive text message reminders 15 minutes before parking will expire. They can then extend their park time by calling the voice response system or responding with the application.
"The biggest value of any Pay-by-Phone system is not paying by phone but the ability to remotely extend time," Menezes said.
Motorists who pay with credit cards are also prompted to give their phone number to the Luke II for Extend-by-Phone, a program that, unlike Pay-by-Phone, is through Digital Payment Technologies.
Extend-by-Phone also alerts users by text when parking time is about to expire. Motorists can then respond with the amount of additional time they would like with a text message. It requires no registration and has a lower cost than Pay-by-Phone, at 25 cents per telephone transaction, according to Menezes.
Columbia motorists don't get to try it out just yet, though.
The trial will cost the city a per-transaction fee to credit card companies, said Jill Stedem, a spokeswoman for the city's Public Works Department.
To accommodate this, motorists who pay with credit cards will be required to purchase two hours of parking time, even when they might only need five minutes.
A city ordinance that requires motorists to move their cars after two hours is also still in place, so that leaves no time to Extend-by-Phone.
"The street meters are designed for short-term parking, and the parking garages are for long-term parking," Stedem said.
The city might consider revising the ordinance if it decides to invest in the Luke II machines, so that motorists can make use of Extend-by-Phone.
Another company, IPS Group Inc., is scheduled to install single-space meters on Ninth Street from Locust Street to University Avenue also with credit card payment capabilities by the end of the month.
In addition to credit card fees, IPS Group Inc. is charging the city $5.35 per single-space meter installed during the trial. The city has budgeted $2,000 for the pilot, according to Stedem.
At the end of the 90 days, the Downtown Parking Task Force, which proposed the pilot in December, will evaluate whether the added convenience and revenue make investment in either system worthwhile.
"If the city and Task Force decide to move forward with the project, we'll have to budget for those types of fees with the next city budget," Stedem said.
Stedem also said the decision might be to add the parking technologies only to some higher-traffic areas, such as those south of Broadway.