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Close to half of downtown Toledo's parking meters will accept credit or debit card payments once 400 solar-powered meter "cores" the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority plans to buy are installed by early fall.
The port authority's board of directors on Thursday approved the $232,000 purchase from IPS Group Inc. of San Diego. Rather than buy entirely new parking meters, the agency, which took over management of Toledo's parking meters in January, is buying just the tops, or "cores," that include the systems that record payment and display remaining time.
Several dozen meters upgraded in that manner have worked "flawlessly" for about 18 months along two blocks of Madison Avenue between St. Clair and Huron streets, Bill Thomas, president of the Downtown Toledo Development Corp., said Thursday after the port directors' unanimous vote.
The new upgrades are expected to be done within about 90 days, and will be concentrated in the areas where parking-meter use is the heaviest, Mr. Thomas said.
Overall, downtown Toledo has about 900 metered parking spaces, said James Tuschman, chairman of the port authority's facilities and development committee.
The upgraded meters, Mr. Tuschman said, will be capable of being replenished up to the maximum time limit by phone for people who made their initial payment using a credit or debit card.
"You can add additional time right from your office or wherever you are," Mr. Tuschman said, "but you can't get another two hours" once the time limit is reached.
Although they were installed in a one-hour parking zone, the card-reading meters already in use on Madison allow people to pay for up to two hours.
Mr. Thomas said Downtown Toledo Development would like to see a two-hour limit posted at all of the business district's metered parking, but that is up to Toledo City Council to decide. According to city data, he said, the average parking-meter stay in downtown Toledo is 93 minutes.
Toledo parking officials have long struggled with the difficulty of keeping downtown, on-street parking cheap and accessible for visitors while trying to discourage office workers from parking in front of their workplaces instead of using garages or surface lots.
Mr. Thomas said he would like to see city council revisit the issue of the free parking offered at Toledo's meters between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., ostensibly to support lunch customers at downtown restaurants and others who visit during their lunch hour to conduct personal business.
"We've got people who come downtown at 10 a.m., put an hour [of payment] in a meter, and leave at 2," which defeats the free parking's purpose, he said.
Parking agents have, at times, chalked parked cars' tires to enforce the one-hour limit posted from 8 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m., issuing tickets upon their return even if the meter has been fed.
Matt Sapara, the port authority's vice president for facilities development, said the agency now hopes to attract long-term parkers to garages by making those facilities more pleasant to use.
The port authority paid the city of Toledo $12.4 million to buy three municipal parking garages and take over management of curbside metered parking, a deal that took effect in January. Since then, the port authority has awarded three contracts totaling more than $900,000 to replace lighting controls and fixtures and to automate payment collection in the three garages.
Money for capital improvements came from a $14.4 million port authority bond issue that also financed the garage purchase. The city of Toledo used the sale revenue to retire the garages' construction debt and erase a $7 million budget deficit.
In other business Thursday, the port authority board approved a $5,137,500 contract with Rudolph/Libbe Inc. to design and build a maintenance garage for the Ohio Department of Transportation on department-owned land in Monclova Township.
The new garage, which the port authority is overseeing to bypass a cumbersome state facilities-development process, will replace temporary quarters the department's Lucas County forces occupied last year after moving out of an obsolete garage on South Detroit Avenue in Toledo.
Contact David Patch at: email@example.com or 419-724-6094.