The new parking kiosks have finally arrived, and many lunch-goers are greeting them with a sigh of relief.
They have been running for a month and police are now ticketing those who ignore them.
But most customers gave the kiosks high marks.
“I like it. It’s just easier,” said Peter Kyriacopoulos as he parked on Union Street. “Normally I don’t carry cash with me.”
The new kiosks take coins or credit cards, at a flat price of $1 per hour. Drivers must walk to the kiosk closest to their parking space, buy time, then walk back to put a receipt on their dash-
board. The receipt is good for any parking space downtown until the end of the paid time, so visitors can drive to several businesses over the course of an hour without having to pay more than once.
Previously, even having cash might not help — some meters sat broken for years and would not take any coins.
At Bombers, workers heard a flurry of praise from their customers when the coin meters were replaced with kiosks. “A lot of times, they wouldn’t take quarters and people worried because they couldn’t pay,” said supervisor Alyssa Samek.
The parking attendants knew exactly which downtown meters were broken, and wouldn’t write tickets for cars parked there. Some regular downtown parkers also knew which ones were broken, and thus avoided paying for parking, but others would toss in coin after coin in a futile effort to get the meter to work.
City officials said one of the reasons they wanted to try the new kiosks was because they didn’t have any way to buy new parts for some of the meters. Some of them were so old that they could not even be adjusted to new parking rates, city officials said. When downtown parking went up to $1 per hour, some meters stayed at 25 cents an hour, unable to go any higher.
Not many have complained about the price hike at those spots under the kiosk system.
“People like the fact that it’s newer,” Samek said. “It hasn’t affected business in any way.”
Still, there’s always room for improvement.
Aubrey Boles complained that the new kiosks won’t accept all forms of money — just coins and credit cards.
“Why can’t you use dollar bills? That’s the question,” she said.
Driver Jim Sinkus added that he didn’t like the receipt. He drives a Jeep, leaving him without a secure place to put his proof of payment in the warmer months.
“My top is off. Someone could take mine,” he said.
Samek said many parkers told her they wanted an option to pay $5 for the whole day. That’s the charge for parking in the LAZ parking lots, which are behind main streets throughout the downtown.
“A lot of people who park [at the kiosks] work downtown. When the lots are full, it’s very difficult to remember, ‘Oh wait, I paid the meter two hours ago, I’d better run out there,’ ” she said.
The kiosks offer a maximum of two hours paid parking per driver. The goal is to keep employees from parking in the few spots directly in front of downtown businesses. City officials want those spots left open for customers.
There’s also some question about the handicapped spaces, which are free in Schenectady. When there were meters at every non-handicapped space, it was easy to see that the handicapped space was free. Now, there are no signs indicating the policy has stayed the same.
But Mayor Gary McCarthy said those spots are still free.
He added that the two-hour limit still applies at the handicapped spaces, as it does at every other space, and said he won’t mind if people mistakenly pay at the kiosk despite being entitled to park for free. “If people would like to make a donation, I won’t turn it down,” he said.
For many, though, the new kiosks are just a faster way to park.
“That was painless,” said Dan Mahoney, who was heading to lunch. “It’s more convenient, because I don’t have to find quarters.”
The kiosks are a pilot program and have been introduced only in the heart of the downtown, from Union Street to State Street. There are 19 of them, all powered through solar panels, with roughly two placed on each block.
They can be found on State Street between Veeder Avenue and Broadway, Union Street between Jay Street and Lafayette Street, Broadway from State Street to Hamilton Street, and Jay Street across from City Hall. The program will be extended soon to Erie Boulevard and lower State Street, from Erie Boulevard to Washington Avenue.
The first 19 kiosks cost $130,000 and will cost $12,000 a year to operate.