Pay N Go Now Is A Go For GR

December 19, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — The Intella-Pay has paid off.

Since May, Parking Services has been trying out an Intella-Pay Payment Station in the city-owned, 16-space lot at Michigan Street and Ionia Avenue. The station is an automated payment system that replaced the parking meters in the lot, and it operates the lot without an attendant present.

Parking Services recently completed its six-month trial run of the system made by Digital Pioneer of Vancouver, British Columbia, and the results were good enough that parking commissioners gave the department a green light to buy at least one station.

“The money has been budgeted and is in the fiscal account,” said Pam Ritsema, director of Parking Services, who nicknamed the system Pay N’ Go.

Ritsema has to get approval from city commissioners before her department can buy the station, which is expected to cost $30,000. Digital Pioneer sells an Intella-Pay for roughly $25,000, while the software goes for $3,000. Maintenance for the system will cost Parking Services about $900 a year.

Parking Services sees those charges as good investments. Barbara Singleton, who took the lead on the trial for the department, reported that revenue to the lot over the test period was nearly identical to the same timeframe last year when meters were used — but expenses were down from last year.

Singleton said the cost of securing and collecting the revenue was lower, as were labor costs.

“The more spaces in a lot, the total cost of ownership is reduced and the return on investment is sooner,” she added.

Because of that evaluation, it’s likely Parking Services will relocate the Intella-Pay to a larger lot, as a station is capable of managing up to 60 parking spaces. Ritsema said her department hasn’t decided on which one that would be, but she offered the new DASH lot on Seward, the Scribner lot and one of the lots south of the Van Andel Arena as possible sites. She added that two Intella-Pays could operate up to 120 spaces.

Cutting department expenses would be a good thing because, as Ritsema reported, the city may take the revenue Parking Services gets from meters and put it into the general fund to help offset the deficit the city is facing. Income from meters comes to $1 million annually.

Intella-Pay allows customers to use bills and debit and credit cards to pay for parking. It gives the city the option to create a smart card that could be used for parking and, maybe, bus service. The machine allows for different rate settings and can conduct a transaction in three languages.

Digital Pioneer first produced the current version of the station in 1999. The company debuted its very first automated machine in 1997.

But according to a survey of lot users, two-thirds felt that the Intella-Pay was not easy to use. Ritsema thought that was a normal response because the machine was new to parkers. Almost a quarter of those surveyed said they paid for parking with bills, 6 percent said they used a credit card, while the rest used coins.    

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