Downtown Beaufort to test parking meters that take coins and credit cards

Ten parking meters that accept coins and credit/debit cards will be installed on Beaufort’s Bay Street next month as part of a 60-day test before the city orders replacement meters for the rest of downtown. The new meters will look the same as the current ones, but provide users the option of paying by credit or debit card along with coins.

“We write very few parking tickets in the Downtown Marina lot, possibly because those meters take credit and debit cards and people can easily buy the most time available on the meter, as opposed to paying with handfuls of quarters and dimes,” said Lundy Baker, project manager for Lanier Parking Solutions which manages Beaufort’s parking.

The combination coin/card meters cost $595 each compared to $450 for the coin-only versions. That cost difference typically is recouped over the first year because people buy more time using their credit cards and debit cards, Baker said.

Myrtle Beach is installing the combination coin/card meters starting in March, as is Wrightsville Beach.

“We need to order new parking meters because the ones on the streets now are about 14 years old and they are beyond efficient maintenance,” Beaufort City Manager Scott Dadson said. “Also, we have heard from many downtown shoppers and merchants that they like the idea of having the choice of paying with a credit or debit card.

“Trying out 10 of these new meters in various locations along Bay Street will let us track their usage and see how many people actually do pay for parking with credit or debit cards,” Dadson said.

Hourly rates remain unchanged. While the test meters will accept the same coins as the current meters do, they’ll also accept dollar coins and tokens, in case Main Street Beaufort USA or individual merchants want to provide shoppers with tokens.

The meters will accept standard credit and debit cards and all transaction are encrypted, just as they are with gasoline pump card readers, Baker said. The test meters will be placed along Bay Street’s the three blocks of Beaufort’s core commercial area, he said. The meters look the same as the current ones and aren’t the larger “parking kiosks” tried out in Beaufort three years ago.

Parking rules are enforced downtown from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Parking is free on Sundays and recognized holidays.

Parking revenues are split with 85 percent going to the Beaufort Redevelopment Commission and 15 percent going to Main Street Beaufort USA. None of the money goes into Beaufort’s general fund.

Downtown Beaufort to test parking meters that take coins and credit cards (photo courtesy The Digitel Beaufort)