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Drivers, neighbors and merchants who are forking over handfuls of quarters to pay the newly increased parking meter rates during peak hours on Fifth and Seventh avenues say the city’s so-called “Park Smart” project isn’t living up to its name — because debit cards that render change obsolete aren’t being sold in the neighborhood yet!
And that’s partly the fault of the local businesses — some of whom have strongly backed the so-called “congestion pricing” for parking spaces, yet aren’t selling the cards.
The prepaid plastic would allow drivers to swipe instead of using change to pay for the tripled meter rates, which rose last week from 50¢ to $1.50 per hour from noon to 4 pm.
That’s an extra four quarters for every 60 minutes — or just enough added coinage to deplete many Park Slope piggybanks and laundry funds.
Supporters of the city’s six-month pilot program said that the lack of the convenient prepaid parking cards has made the experiment more taxing.
Catherine Bohne, owner of the Community Bookstore on Seventh Avenue, has been a strong supporter of the “Park Smart” proposal — which city officials claim will free up parking and decrease congestion caused by drivers circling the neighborhood in search of a space.
But she’s not selling the digital cards, though she admitted that they would “make things easier for everybody.”
Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Gastel said that his agency has solicited Park Slope venders to stock the cards, but has found no takers yet.
To sell the cards, which are available in $20 and $50 increments, businesses have to lay out at least $300. The businesses do make a small profit from the sales, a source told The Brooklyn Paper.
For now, interested drivers can purchase the prepaid parking cards online or at the Municipal Building in (gasp) Lower Manhattan.
But until Park Slope stores start offering the cards, neighborhood drivers will have to scrounge for change — lots of it.
“The main problem is the quarters,” said Seventh Avenue driver Madaline Zebro. “Every few weeks, I stop by the bank to get a few rolls of quarters just to feed these machines! It’s really frustrating.”
Driver Wayne Haynes was also annoyed at the “inconvenience,” as he put it.
“It’s ridiculous!” Haynes said after pulling into a spot on Seventh Avenue. “It’s stupid and it’s inconvenient. [It’s like] they try to make the whole process as difficult as can be.”
— with Emilia Brock
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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