I Wanna Know

PW exposes the tricks, scams and truth about the powers that be.

By Sammy Mack
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jan. 21, 2004

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Q:It seems to me that most of the parking meters in the city now have a slot for prepaid debit card use. Does the Parking Authority intend to activate a system for the use of prepaid cards?

A: As a matter of fact, it does. The parking meters are part of the Philadelphia Parking Authority's new Smart Card program. Instead of digging under the car seat for change, you can now carry a handy little prepaid card that tucks neatly into your wallet with the rest of your credit cards. A Smart Card currently costs $20 (the Parking Authority is considering offering more denominations in the future) and declines in value accordingly after each use. You can purchase a card over the phone, on the Internet and at 3101 Market St., says Parking Authority spokesperson Nycole Stela. Once you've got the card, you just pop it in the slot on the meter. The meter reads a microchip on the back of the card and detects the balance. The system then immediately starts deducting money from the card--25 cents withdrawn every three seconds. Just pull the card out of the slot when you've bought enough time. Smart, right? It gets better: If you're parked in an area with maximum times on each space, the meter won't deduct more from the card than the allotted time. It won't take money off at all if you try to use it during no-parking hours. There are more than 1,400 Smart Card meters in the city, and their installation a year and a half ago cost nearly $2 million. The first Smart Cards weren't activated until October. Cards sold in January have a special-edition graphic featuring the Mummers Parade, and a similarly appropriate card is planned for release in February. "Next month it'll be LOVE Park," says Stela. To purchase a Smart Card online, visit www.philapark.org. The number for phone orders is 215.222.9100. Unless purchased directly from the Parking Authority's offices on Market Street, the Smart Card is shipped to customers via U.S. mail. And if that isn't fast enough for you, all the meters will still take your under-the-seat, sticky, lint-covered change.

What do you wanna know? Send queries and complaints to Sammy Mack at smack@philadelphiaweekly.com

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