Canonsburg officials are considering changing public parking, with a possible switch from coin meters to kiosk stations.
Mayor Dave Rhome said the preliminary discussion concerns the nearly 200 parking meters in the borough’s business district, both lots and street spaces on Pike Street, North Jefferson Avenue and North Central Avenue.
“You have to continue to look at the needs of the community and our options within the municipality,” he said.
Rhome said he had conversations with parking authority officials in Bridgeville, since their borough has recently switched to parking kiosks. Rhome said they previously had about 260 parking meters.
“They told me they received a little bit of pushback when they first changed, but they said they would never look back at the parking meters,” Rhome said. “I think it’s that way with anything. Sometimes change is good, and as soon as people learn how it works, they won’t have a problem with it.”
The kiosks would provide residents, visitors and employees in the borough with more payment options, including change, bills, credit cards or even mobile apps, Rhome said.
“The way the parking meters are, and the way society is today, we often hear, ‘We don’t have a quarter in our pocket,’” he said.
The company that services Bridgeville’s kiosks, Rhome said, is Mobile Smart City, a worldwide company that has done similar work across the greater Pittsburgh region. Rhome said he met with Steve Snyder, a representative of Mobile Smart City, to talk about the feasibility of putting kiosks in Canonsburg. Rhome said Snyder is willing to bring a kiosk to Canonsburg for the council to look over and learn how they work.
“If we like what we see, he’ll put it in temporarily,” Rhome said. “If everyone is comfortable with this, they will mount one in the municipal parking lot for a 30-to-60-day trial period, so we can get feedback from the public about it.”
Borough Councilman Eric Chandler said he uses parking kiosks often since he works in downtown Pittsburgh. He said he would like the borough to be able to try one out to see if it works for Canonsburg residents.
“I’m in favor of it,” he said. “It’s another option that brings us into the current century.”
Snyder said having multiple payment options is only one of many benefits to using the kiosks. He said the kiosks are more auditable than the single-space meters.
“Our machines communicate every transaction,” he said. “Anything done with the machine gets accounted for, including all the money going in.”
He said the kiosks also reduce operation expenses because the collection process doesn’t take nearly as much time as it does to collect quarters from the coin meters. He also said the parts and maintenance for coin meters are getting expensive.
“It’s very old technology,” he said.
For holidays or other free-parking days, the kiosks can be programed, he said, with messages relating that no payments are necessary that day. Snyder said the kiosks also give municipalities a better opportunity to change parking rates.
“In reality, parking rates have gone up across the United States,” he said. “That money is used to improve the lots, pave them, repaint the spaces and for infrastructure updates. Very often the money from those streets go back into those streets to redo the sidewalk and things like that. These days, a quarter an hour isn’t going to pay for those upgrades when the lot starts to deteriorate.”
Rhome emphasized that the project has not been confirmed or voted on by borough council. He said if it was something they chose to pursue, it most likely wouldn’t be until next budget season. He said the potential project would need to be bid out, and the cost would depend on that bid as well as how many kiosks they chose to buy.
Rhome said to replace all the meters, they would probably need about 11 machines, which wouldn’t all be installed at once but over a few years.
“The beauty of it is we can do one parking lot at a time and not break the bank,” Rhome said. “At the end of the day, we will make the right decision for the taxpayer, the residents and the business people.”