Thanks to the EZ Park card program, deliveryman Matt Jones can keep his quarters.
“It saves me a ton of money because there were a lot of times when I just needed to drop something off and all I had was a quarter,” Jones said.
With the EZ Park card, Jones doesn’t have to worry about carrying quarters. Instead, he can insert his card into a meter and pay for only the time he parks.
“The card is great,” said Lee Eckel, who works at Lakota Coffee Co. on Ninth Street. “It gives you back what you don’t use, and it’s nice not having to dig for change.”
The Public Works Department initiated the program in March with 320 meters lining Ninth Street and occupying the Daniel Boone Building parking lot. There are no new meters to be installed because existing meters, bought since 2000, already have the card slot.
“The only thing we have to do is install the readers,” said Bill Lewis, parking supervisor.
The programmed meters, which have a blue “P” in the middle of a white circle, provide the balance and charge the card in 25-cent increments. Once the card is inserted, the screen displays the balance before adding time to the meter. After reaching the desired amount, users pull out the card, and the color wheel on the meter turns green.
For a refund, users reinsert the card.
The screen first displays the remaining balance and then reads “ref” as the meter returns time to the card. The screen then shows the balance with the refund, and the color wheel turns red. Refunds are rewarded to the penny.
“If you drive off without your refund, you can still go back to that same meter and get it before the time runs out, even if someone else has parked there because each card has its own identification number,” Lewis said.
The Traffic and Parking Violation Department’s most frequent cause for ticketing is individuals who allow their meters to expire.
The EZ Park program is too new to make a difference in the frequency of this violation.
“Since we’re just getting these installed, we’re not going to be able to tell,” Lewis said. “It should take about a year or so before we have data.”
As of December, the Public Works Department had issued 146 EZ Park cards.
“Almost every time I use it, someone asks what I’m doing,” said Leigh Lockhart, owner of Main Squeeze, a restaurant on Ninth Street. “I found out about it from The District Newsletter.”
Lockhart spreads the word by offering the cards to her regulars.
“They’re great little gifts to give,” she said.
Lewis said he hopes to expand the meters to most of the downtown area, with 1,000 to be installed by March 1. The meters will be added to the 600 through 1000 blocks of Walnut Street and Broadway, all of Cherry and Elm streets, 500 through 1100 block of Locust Street, as well as throughout the metered streets on the MU campus.
Cards can be bought at the Columbia Public Works Department at 701 E. Broadway from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays at Memorial Union and at the Special Business District office at 11 S. Tenth St.
Cards can be bought in dollar increments up to $100 and can be recharged an unlimited number of times.