The need to dig through your car’s coin trays for dimes and quarters to feed ravenous parking meters may soon become a thing of the past.
The city will begin using E-Park cards, electronic debit cards accepted by about 3,000 Berkeley parking meters, as soon as Feb. 1.
The cards are the size of a credit card said Deputy City Manager Phil Kamlarz.
Like a BART card, E-Park cards withdraw money every time they are placed into a slot in the front of the parking meter. However, unlike BART cards, they are not disposable, so people can keep their cards and recharge them.
“The idea is great,” said Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “It means that people don’t have to shift around for change. That’s exciting.”
The cards will come in $10 increments up to $50 and will be sold at the Finance Customer Service Center at 2020 Center St. When the cards run out of money they can also be recharged there.
Every time the card is put into a meter 25 cents will be deducted, good for 20 minutes of parking. People will be able to insert the card multiple times.
Kamlarz said the cards will work on nearly every meter in Berkeley that operates for a single parking space. These meters already have a small slot for electronic cards just below the coin slot. Reinos – Berkeley’s new meters that control several parking spaces at once – will not accept the E-Park cards.
“We have gone out and asked people what they thought because we had to see if they would use it,” he said. “It’s not a money-maker, it is just more of a convenience.”
The idea came up several years ago and the city has since been working with the Chamber of Commerce to implement E-Parking. In 1998 the city installed 3,000 electronic meters and last July the City Council approved a resolution to implement the system, which included purchasing software.
In the future, electronic cards may be used for other city services that are charged by hourly rates. Kamlarz said parking garages are a possibility. The city may also adapt a regional E-Park card that people can use in other nearby cities.
Minneapolis and Orlando are two cities that already use parking meter cards. Kamlarz said Berkeley officials talked with officials in those other cities about implementation of the system.
The city has set up a parking meter hotline at 1-877-METER-411, which leads a caller to a voicemail system for the city’s Finance Department. The Daily Planet continues to wait for a call back from that number.